A few dedicated Seattle Mariners fans are getting to spring training the hard way: They're bicycling all the way to Arizona. At the same time...

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A few dedicated Seattle Mariners fans are getting to spring training the hard way: They’re bicycling all the way to Arizona.

At the same time, they hope to raise $30,000 for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Gregory Fund to underwrite research for early cancer detection.

The relay riders pedaled off ceremonially from Safeco Field yesterday afternoon, carrying a baseball handed to them by the Mariners Moose. The bikers will toss the same ball that will be thrown as the first pitch at the M’s March 12 game against the Texas Rangers in Peoria, Ariz. Then the Mariners will autograph the ball and it will be auctioned to raise more money for “The Hutch.”

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The Going the Distance for Early Detection Ride officially begins at 4:30 a.m. today, when lead-off riders Kelly White of Seattle and Susan Steckler of Redmond are to leave from the Husky Stadium parking lot.

There will be 15 people in the relay, including Steckler’s husband, Paul, who is the team’s bike coach. He’s going the distance. Susan Steckler will return after the first day to “herd kiddos.”

White said part of the challenge of the ride has been putting together the schedule. Her husband, Tom, who like Paul Steckler works at Microsoft, will have to join the team along the way, because of work demands.

The riders will follow back roads to Highway 101, then along the coast to Ventura, Calif., where they’ll swing inland and cross California to Arizona. The trip will cover about 1,800 miles and is expected to take eight days. “We’re not camping,” White said. “We’re going to keep the ball moving from 4:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, but we couldn’t imagine camping in March while covering more than 200 miles a day on bicycles.”

So they have borrowed a motor home and a van. And one of their support staff is a massage therapist, Mary Walgamott of Bellevue.

White hatched the idea in December, when one night she ran her first marathon in Honolulu. She started organizing the event in January with her friends, the Stecklers. To raise money for cancer research was a natural. White’s first husband died of cancer nine years ago.

The youngest rider is White’s 13-year-old son, Connor Cummings White, who attends Chinook Middle School in Bellevue.

Other Eastside riders include Dave Fitzsimmons and Craig Fisher of Mercer Island whose mother, Babs Fisher, died of ovarian cancer in October.

Is this the start of an annual event?

White would like to see it continue, and Susan Steckler hopes it at least inspires others.

“We figured by pushing ourselves to do something extreme, it will inspire others to push themselves to something more, either by a donation or to volunteer,” Steckler said.

You can track the trip on the group’s Web site: www.goingthedistanceforearlydetection.com

Speaking of baseball

Jeneane Des Combes Lesko of Bellevue is looking for a few good hardball players — but only women need apply. Lesko is the organizing force behind the Washington Women’s Baseball Association.

She’s played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. (The movie “A League of Their Own” was Hollywood’s memorial to the women baseball players.)

She didn’t talk about her baseball experiences for decades, but she returned to the sport after the movie came out, both playing and coaching. She’s 69 and can still pitch a fast ball, as well as hit one.

Girls and women 14 and older are eligible. For information, go to www.wwba-baseball.org online. An orientation and clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 at Grass Lawn Park in Redmond.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com