NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- An old photograph, worn with age, is tucked away inside my work bag. Right now, that bag is situated at my feet as I write during these Winter Meetings. It goes everywhere I go, which means there is a picture of my mom always within reach.
My mom, Patti Bastian, passed away of colon cancer on Christmas Day in 1996. I was 14 years old, so I remember having her around for most of my childhood. I have also missed having her there for so many important events in the years that have followed. High school and college graduation. My wedding. The birth of my son.
It is rare for a reporter to step out from behind his byline, but today I will make an exception.
There is not a day that goes by that I am not in some way reminded of my mom. On Monday, as a host of Major League Baseball public relations executives stood up inside a ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center as part of the announcement for a unique Stand Up To Cancer MLB.com Auction, I was again reminded of that Christmas so many years ago, and of how many people are affected by this ugly disease.
My thoughts, however, quickly turned to how far cancer research and treatment has come in the past 16 years. Stand Up To Cancer -- and the many other foundations aimed at reducing the number of deaths caused by the various forms of the illness -- have done so much to help progress.
As part of the current Stand Up To Cancer initiative, Major League Baseball and all 30 organizations have put more than 70 experiences and items up for auction on MLB.com to generate additional funds for cancer research.
"The PR executives of the 30 clubs have assembled a truly unprecedented collection of auction items," said Jacqueline Parkes, Major League Baseball's chief marketing officer. "This auction gives fans the chance to have an unforgettable baseball experience while contributing to the critically important work of Stand Up To Cancer."
The Indians, who had two staff members standing at the front of the room, have offered a special game-day experience as part of the program. The auction will conclude at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, which is the final day of the Winter Meetings.
Cleveland will allow the winning bidder to take batting practice -- thrown by a Major League BP pitcher -- at Progressive Field and will offer a view of the team's BP session from the home dugout. The winner will have the chance to meet manager Terry Francona, watch the game from the press box and chat with radio play-by-play man Tom Hamilton.
The package also features complimentary lunch or dinner at Great Lakes Brewing Company, along with four passes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
This is a cause that hits very close to home.
Cancer took my mom when she was just 53 years old, leaving my dad with a teenage son to finish raising on his own. She was a special woman who had an impact on many lives in the time she was given. Raised a few blocks from where old Comiskey Park stood on Chicago's South Side, her love of baseball, and the "Go-Go" White Sox of the 1950s, fueled my own passion for the game.
I said good night to her on Christmas Eve, gave her a kiss on the cheek and went to sleep. In the early-morning hours, as my dad slipped a pair of bright red Christmas socks on her feet, she slipped away. It might have been her time, but it felt far too soon.
We mourned our loss but have always made sure to celebrate her life.
On the day of my wedding, my sister rushed through the church to find me moments before I took the stage. Melissa handed me a small, square photograph -- a picture of my mom smiling, an arm around my shoulders -- and asked that I put it in the pocket of my suit coat.
On the back of the photo, my sister wrote a message:
I wanted mom to be close to your heart.
My mom, like so many others, stood up to cancer as long as her strength allowed.
Stand Up To Cancer gives us all a chance to do our part, too.