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Rays offering up 3 auction items to benefit LUNGevity

SAN DIEGO -- Grant Balfour remembers the day he heard his father, David, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Serving as the closer for the A's at the time, the veteran right-hander thought he could soldier on through the bad news received from his native Australia, where his father lives.

"Basically, the news I got from the doctors was, 'He has pancreatic cancer and we'll give him probably a year and a half to live,'" Balfour said. "I go out the next day and give up four runs, and I'm like, 'Things can't get any worse.'"

Leave it to a father to overlook his own plight and think about his son.

"I talked to my dad and he said, 'I don't know what it is, but it's all going to work out. I'm not worried about it. And I just love watching you play, and it gives me the will to live,'" Balfour said. "And from there on out, I kind of just tore it up. I don't know if I even gave up another run that year. It was a pretty cool conversation we had."

Balfour, like other Major Leaguers and most everyone in society, has had his life affected by cancer.

For the third consecutive year, Major League Baseball, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and the 30 clubs have organized a Winter Meetings charity auction that includes unprecedented baseball experiences and rare items to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. This initiative was inspired by the numerous employees, friends and fans of the game who have been directly affected by cancer.

Funds raised from this year's auction will be donated to LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit, in memory of the late Baltimore Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow, who fought a valiant battle with lung cancer until her passing in February of this year.

The Rays are offering up three items for auction: Being a clubhouse staff member for the day, lunch with the starting rotation and being a part of the club's team photo. The bidding began on Monday and will be live on until Thursday at 11 p.m. ET.

Balfour noted that being around his father or talking to him on the phone, and understanding what he's going through his battle, has added a lot of perspective to his life.

"Seeing what he's going through, you see some things differently, for sure," Balfour said. "He's been fighting for awhile. We try to fight it with him, but he's doing all the work. He's going through all the aches and pains.

"At the end of the day, health is No. 1. If you have a healthy family, it doesn't get much better than that."

Since being diagnosed three years ago, David has endured secondary cancers in his stomach, shoulder and brain. Subsequently, Balfour has learned more about cancer than he ever wanted to know. For example, he can expound extensively about the Whipple procedure performed on his father.

"They basically take out your whole intestines, your whole digestive system, it's a huge operation," Balfour said. "Internal and external, I think it was like a 1,000 stitches in his stomach. They cut you wide open."

Balfour's relationship with cancer is personal, so he's become more aware.

"You think about it," Balfour said. "Cancer just takes so many lives. It took my grandfather. It's taken so many people."

Balfour recently returned from a trip to Australia to visit his father and he'll return on Tuesday as a Major League Baseball ambassador, which will afford him another opportunity to see his father.

Balfour's admiration for his father can easily be detected when he talks about him.

"He's battling it and doing all the fighting he can to live," Balfour said. "It's probably going to get him one of these days. It's amazing to see what he's gone through and keeps fighting. He's definitely a fighter."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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