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Astros experience draws big bids in SU2C auction

High bidder will win hitting lesson for 20, meet-and-greets and suite for one game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros are offering a "Once in a Lifetime" experience as part of an industry-wide auction to eradicate cancer, and it's garnering a nice chunk of cash that will eventually go to MLB's Stand Up To Cancer initiative.

The winner of the prize, and 19 of his or her invited guests, will enjoy the following: a one-hour hitting lesson with longtime fan favorite Jose Cruz, photos of each participant at home plate, a meet-and-greet with autographs with Cruz and fellow Astros legend Jimmy Wynn and a VIP tour of Minute Maid Park.

While the batting practice experience will take place on a non-game day, this special SU2C package also includes a suite for 22 people to an Astros home game in the 2014 season and a meet-and-greet before the game with Astros president Reid Ryan or general manager Jeff Luhnow. The entire package was currently going for $1,225 as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, one of the higher dollar figures in an auction featuring 80 prizes from all 30 Major League teams.

The Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer is part of a much larger initiative that 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.

Three MLB PR representatives have been dealing with cancer for the past several years: Shannon Forde, a longtime member of the Mets media relations staff; the Cardinals' Melody Yount, and the Orioles' Monica Barlow. Because media relations folks have a direct line to and close relationships with the ballplayers, they were able to cook up a doozy of a list of enticing prizes to offer in the auction.

The items up for bid aren't just your garden-variety signed bats and balls, although those are included in several packages. If the items seem a little over the top, they are -- on purpose. The goal is to raise as much money as possible to fight cancer, a disease that has touched the lives of just about everyone in the world in some fashion, and club employees have purposely put together a list of eye-popping items that hopefully will be irresistible to the charity-minded fan base.

Last year, the auction raised more than $150,000. Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs are the founding partners of SU2C and a lead donor since 2008, committing more than $40 million through '14. MLB has collaborated with Stand Up To Cancer on significant awareness-building efforts, including public service announcements, in-stadium promotion and fundraising events, and a World Series game has been dedicated to the initiative for each of the past three years.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.
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