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Suzuki makes father proud on and off the field

Suzuki makes father proud on and off the field
DENVER -- The smile obviously runs in the family.

The smile shared in the A's clubhouse by Kurt Suzuki is equally contagious as his father, Warren's.

Speaking from his home in Maui, Warren gushes about his son, and said that "as his father, I couldn't be more proud."

"It's still surreal, because we come from such a small community on Maui, and when you look at the amount of youth in baseball, to have the opportunity to play in the Majors, it's amazing. It really is."

So, too, is Warren's unwavering outlook on life, despite the bad hand dealt his way back in 2007. He learned he had kidney cancer and had to relay the information to Kurt and his daughter, Keri Ann, over the phone.

"When we first found out, one of the concerns my wife and I obviously had was, 'How are we going to pass the information to Kurt and his sister?'" Warren recalled. "They both live on the mainland and, with something serious like this, it's always difficult to communicate the information over the phone. That's why it's best to communicate it face to face, but it's something that wasn't going to happen. So we decided we would just take a very positive approach in explaining to them I do have kidney cancer, but I'm going to take it on and maintain a good attitude and hope for the best."

"It was definitely a shock," Kurt said. "You don't know how to handle it at first, but you do your best and always think about it and hope he's always OK. It's always kind of there in your mind, and you just hope he stays OK. He was positive the whole time. He wanted to live his life and enjoy it."

Traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments were not an option for Warren, because of their unresponsive reaction to kidney cancer. He was forced to undergo surgery within a week of being diagnosed, and ultimately had to have his left kidney removed.

The procedure was a success, and for a year Warren lived cancer-free. However, in 2008, the cancer was back, this time in his prostate. The tests that revealed the prostate cancer, also discovered cancer cells from his kidney that had reached his left lung.

Back to the operating room he went, and surgery was performed to take out a portion of the cancerous lung. This procedure was followed by the distribution of oral chemotherapy pills, that Warren would take for nearly two years to keep the cancer at bay.

"Knock on wood, it's been 4 1/2 years since lung surgery and I've been OK," Warren said.

The prostate cancer is still there, though, as doctors continue to monitor it. Despite this, Warren is too busy enjoying life outside of the hospital to worry about going back for more visits.

Kurt, meanwhile, is equally active, and not just on the field. During the offseason, Kurt and his wife Renee established the Kurt Suzuki Family Foundation in an effort to support the scientific research of chronic illnesses, and more specifically kidney disease. Kidney disease hits close to home for Kurt in more than one way.

Renee's 21-year-old sister, Patricia, has focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare genetic abnormality that attacks the kidney's filtering system and causes serious scarring.

"She occasionally gets a little sick but for the most part is doing OK," Kurt said. "We just really wanted to think of something that was close to us and do something that would better that and help out that cause."

To that end, Kurt and Renee will host Kidney Disease Awareness Day at the Coliseum on Friday during the A's game against the Padres. All proceeds will go to the foundation.

The A's have set up a special fundraising ticket offer which will donate $5 from each Field Level ticket ($26) purchased online to the Kurt Suzuki Family Foundation. During the game, behind section 121, Renee and other players' wives and girlfriends will sell "mystery" A's autographed baseballs, host a silent auction of autographed memorabilia, and sell limited edition Suzuki "808" Maui Thing T-shirts ($25).

Warren, who rarely misses out on watching the A's with his wife on their computer in Maui, couldn't be happier.

"We really feel proud that he's taken the initiative to create the foundation," he said. "I guess, from my perspective, given my history and all, the fact that he has decided to focus on the kidney initiative and help those who need the help and support, it's really special for us."

Nothing trumps the pride that comes with being a grandfather, though. Kurt and Renee gave him that very gift last April, when they welcomed daughter Malia Grace into the world. Since then, she's been spoiled like crazy.

"That's what we're supposed to do, right?" Warren asks.

"Oh, big-time," Kurt says, smiling. "It's pretty cool. You realize you're growing up when you're not the grandchild anymore. You're the dad. It's definitely a surreal kind of feeling."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Kurt Suzuki