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LUNGevity cause hits home to members of Tribe

Indians auctioning items that feature Francona, Brantley

SAN DIEGO -- A year ago at this time, Monica Barlow was on stage with her public-relations counterparts at baseball's Winter Meetings, helping to raise awareness of a cause that was very personal for her.

On Monday her peers continued in her memory.

On the first day of these Meetings, MLB's PR staffers gathered on stage again -- this time wearing "4 Monica" shirts as part of an initiative to raise money for cancer research. The annual auction, which includes a pair of unique experiences made available by the Indians, will benefit LUNGevity, the largest national non-profit organization for lung cancer.

Barlow, the former PR director of the Orioles, lost her battle with lung cancer this past February at the age of 36.

"Monica meant a great deal to everyone," said Bart Swain, the Indians' director of baseball information. "She impacted lives. People don't really associate lung cancer with someone who's healthy and vibrant, as Monica was. Raising an awareness about an organization and a disease such as this, it's truly a positive. She's someone we'll never forget."

This marks the third consecutive year that MLB has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer in an effort to aid the fight against the disease. This year's auction, which features a variety of experiences and items made available by all 30 teams, began at midnight ET on Monday and will run through 11 p.m. ET on Thursday.

"Major League Baseball is honored to conduct fundraising efforts for LUNGevity in memory of Monica Barlow," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "As a social institution with important social responsibilities, our game's most valuable opportunities are those that make an impact on the lives of others. It is our privilege to contribute to an extraordinary cause."

The first experience offered by the Indians is a chance to take on-field batting practice before a game at Progressive Field next season (date to be determined). Afterward, the winner, along with three guests, will stay to watch the Tribe take BP, meet manager Terry Francona and left fielder Michael Brantley, then take in the game.

The second item up for auction is the opportunity to use Francona's season tickets to the Cavs' basketball game against the Suns on March 7 in Cleveland. The winner and one guest will sit four rows from the floor (Section 33, Row 2, seats 7-8) and near the Cavs' bench, as well as enjoy access to the Platinum Lounge.

The cause hits close to home for many within the Indians' organization, including the two men involved in the items available in the auction. Francona lost his mother, Roberta, to breast cancer in 1992, and Brantley lost a grandmother to cancer.

"It truly shows that everyone is affected by cancer," Swain said. "My mom's going through it right now, too. She's got her own battle going on. I think everyone is touched by it. It's very pervasive. You never know. It kind of touches everyone. That's why raising awareness is so important."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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