LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While spending the past two years serving as a spokesman for Curing Kids Cancer, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has come to realize cancer's victims are not simply those who become afflicted with a form of this disease.
"Even if your family isn't directly affected by cancer, if you have kids in school and one of their friends ends up getting it, that affects your child as well," Kimbrel said. "It's something that you don't want your child to go through. It doesn't just affect the children themselves, it affects everyone around them."
Many members of the Braves organization have been directly or indirectly affected by some form of cancer. Freddie Freeman's mother died of melanoma when he was just nine years old. Jason Heyward lost an aunt to lung cancer.
When Jim Beauchamp died of leukemia on Christmas Day in 2007, Bobby Cox lost one of his closest friends and the Braves lost a valuable instructor who helped shape the careers of so many players who have passed through Atlanta dating back to the early 1990s.
Fortunately the fight to find a cure for various forms of cancer has also helped members of the Braves family. Pete Van Wieren was diagnosed with cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma just a few months after he retired from his long and distinguished career as a Braves broadcaster.
Van Wieren has maintained the spirit promoted by the Stand Up To Cancer Campaign, which Major League Baseball will promote again during this year's Winter Meetings. "The Professor" was originally diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and again in both of the two years that followed. But he has since been cancer free.
Baseball's Winter Meetings this week include an MLB.com Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer, which MLB has supported since 2008 as founding sponsor. Public relations representatives from all 30 clubs were inspired to act based on individual club members impacted by the disease, and they jointly organized the auction, which will be officially announced at a news conference on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with MLB staff. Bidding closes at 10 p.m. ET Thursday with 80 baseball-related experiences ranging from private pitching and batting lessons with players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides and meet-and-greets with Hall of Fame players.
Braves items included in this auction include a variety of game-used items -- baseballs, bases, lineup cards and jerseys -- an autographed Phil Niekro picture and two packages: the Atlanta Braves Family Fun Special and the Atlanta Braves All-Star Meet and Greet.
The Family Fun Special includes four one-day "park-hopper" passes to Walt Disney World and four tickets to a mutually agreed upon Braves Spring Training game at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. Four pregame field passes will also be included to provide a chance to meet and take pictures with manager Fredi Gonzalez and various players before the Spring Training game.
The All-Star Meet and Greet includes four tickets, four pregame field passes and a parking pass to a 2014 Braves home game of the buyer's choice (Opening Day excluded). Package also includes a chance to meet and take pictures with one of the following Braves players (buyer's choice): Kimbrel, shortstop Andrelton Simmons or outfielder Justin Upton.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.