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Winter Meetings: LUNGevity PR Initiative

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, my name's Josh Rawitch I'm the Senior Vice President of Communications for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and on behalf of all the Major League Baseball public relations staff and front office people here today, we appreciate you guys, not only being part of the news conference but all of you working as well. We'd like to start today's news conference with a moment of silence.

We've lost a number of members of the baseball family over the last year, most of whom that I'll mention, to cancer, but certainly to other causes as well. Most recently, Bryan Burwell, who was a great writer and inspired many of us; Dick.

Bresciani of the Boston Red Sox; San Diego's own Tony Gwynn; Richard Durrett, a writer in Texas, and of course, all of us here today to honor Monica Barlow of the Baltimore Orioles. So we ask you all to please join us in a moment of silence for all of them. Thank you very much. I'd like to start today's news conference. Most of you are aware by now that this is the third year that all of us have gotten together to raise funds specifically for cancer, but of course with the passing of Monica, it's taken on a new level for all of us. So I'd like to introduce Monica's husband, Ben Barlow to say a few words.

BEN BARLOW: Good afternoon, I guess. They've asked me to keep this short, so I will. Just a huge thank you to the PR folks at MLB, for MLB, and especially Josh for pulling this together. It's just a wonderful tribute for Monica. I was just talking to Melody and Shannon, actually, who are going through their own battles with this disease that takes far too many of our loved ones from us too early.

I was thinking about after Monica's diagnosis some of the things we learned, and one of the most valuable lessons that we learned was that you can't take life for granted. That sometimes there is something pushing in the other direction, and you have to make use of every minute that you have.

Monica was a tremendously private person who just took great pride in doing her job perfectly, but keeping her head down and not being the center of attention. So she's ticked off somewhere right now.

But about six months after her diagnosis ‑‑ well, actually, two months after her diagnosis, we were in the infusion room at Jones Hopkins, and we saw a T‑shirt that one of the nurses was wearing about a breathe deep walk that was going to benefit Lungevity that was happening in DC that next weekend, and we talked about it and thought it sounded interesting. And Monica was the first to say, "I'm not up for that yet." She didn't really want people to know she was sick. She was afraid if people knew she was dealing with something that they would expect less out of her. That your expectations for a perfect job, cancer would somehow be an excuse not to be giving that.

But as time went on, she realized that by benefit of her public position, even though she was a private person, that she really could work to make a difference for other people dealing with cancer, specifically lung cancer and their families. She got involved with Lungevity, the largest lung cancer advocacy group in the country. And in the last four years we were able to do a lot of fundraising, and she was able.

The most important thing she was able to do was network with other people that were dealing with cancer diagnosis and work with them, and talk with them and talk to their families. But it created a relationship that really hopefully, even in a terrible situation like this has allowed us to make some good come out of it somehow.

I just applaud MLB, applaud everybody here on the stage today for taking that even a step further after Monica's passing, and really using tragic events like this to do as much as possible to make sure that no one feels the way my family does or that Tony Gwynn's family does or that so many people's families do right now. Thank you to MLB.

So how can you help?

Obviously, that's why we're here is to talk about the way that we may be able to help raise money, awareness for lung cancer and try to make a little bit of a change. So this, as I've mentioned in the past has benefited Stand Up to 2 Cancer and have been able to raise a quarter million dollars in the first two years of this auction we do online. And this past year was mentioned to me originally by Phyllis [ck] with Major League Baseball and pretty much unanimously approved by everybody up here that we wanted to try to help Lungevity, this amazing cause that Ben mentioned and spoke of that can go specifically to lung cancer research. So that's what this year's auction is going to be benefiting is Lungevity.

I want to thank everybody here on the stage who has put together some of the most amazing items each year. We kind of top the previous years. So I'm going to run off a couple of these, because they're really unique and ultimately it's going to be how we're going to make a difference.

We'll have one fan this year that will get a chance to take the lineup card to home plate with Buck Showalter, who is up with here with us, as well as Jeff Banister. Maybe the whole season he said, "There you go." We have private pitching lessons with CC Sabathia, Doc Gooden, Dave Duncan. We actually have the National League Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom willing to issue a haircut to a fan who is going to purchase that. Tony La Russa will manage a Little League game for your Little League team. JJ Hardy will teach your Little League team on the field at Camden Yards. We have meet and greet with Hall of Famers and just about every one of the major and best players in football today, those are all available. We have two world champions, Hall of Famers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt willing to take a couple fans bowling with them. An All‑Star media experience. I know you in the media don't realize how amazing your jobs are, but we have people that I guarantee will pay thousands and thousands of dollars to do what each of you do at the All‑Star Game. Go behind the scenes at the Home Run Derby and have the access that all of us often take for granted. And ultimately the most creative of all of the sessions, we have a fan who is going to have a chance to have a private pottery session with Scooter Gennett of the Milwaukee Brewers. That's not something you can buy every day. And this is honestly just seven or eight of the amazing things this group has come together to choose. So the way we're going to do that is direct everybody to That auction kicked off last night and it will be running through Thursday night.

So to tell you guys just a little bit about what this cause is and why it matters so much, and why what we're doing matters, I'd like to introduce the president of Lungevity, Andrea Ferris.

ANDREA FERRIS: Thanks, Josh, and thank you to all of you for having me here today and for dedicating the winter auction to lung cancer and to Lungevity. I am incredibly humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude.

Actually, when Josh called me to let me know, I think I was actually speechless, which many people in my office were surprised and happy about that that actually can happen.

I'm not sure you fully understand the impact that your involvement will have on people living with lung cancer. That's about 400,000 people in the United States today. Lung cancer is a disease that most people associate with smoking, but, in fact, over 60% of those diagnosed don't smoke. It's unfortunate that part of what brought us here today is the devastating loss of someone in your MLB family and in our Lungevity family, Monica Barlow.

I didn't know Monica in a professional setting like you all do. I met her post‑diagnosis with Ben, as he mentioned already, and to the end she was just an incredible advocate, spreading awareness, and more importantly as Ben alluded to, hope for people living with the disease.

As you know, Monica was the Director of Public Relations for the Baltimore Orioles and passed away last February at the age of 36 from lung cancer. Monica was the antithesis of what many people think of when they think of lung cancer. She was a young, healthy woman who never smoked. She went to see a doctor about a nagging cough which she was experiencing while training for a marathon. It turned out not to be a cough. It turned out to be stage four lung cancer.

I promised Josh that I wouldn't bore everybody with statistics and facts, but there are a few that are particularly important to know. With lung cancer, 1 in 14 of us will be diagnosed in our lifetime with lung cancer. That is one child on every Little League team in the country. Lung cancer kills twice as many women as breast cancer, and three times as many men as prostate cancer. In fact, 167,000 Americans will lose their lives to lung cancer this year alone. That's more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer combined in a year.

As I stated earlier, you don't have to smoke to get lung cancer. So why don't you hear much about it? Well, that's a very good question, one which I ask myself as well. I got involved with lung cancer advocacy after my mother passed away in 2008, and I had similar questions and thoughts myself. Unlike breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer and other diseases, lung cancer has very few survivors. Most people are diagnosed stage 4, it's asymptomatic, nothing presents itself until it's very late. And as a consequence of having very few survivors, you have very few champions. That's one of the many reasons why what you're doing here today and with this auction is so incredibly momentous.

Major League Baseball is the first professional sports league to take on lung cancer. When you step up to the plate and lend your names and your teams to this effort, the impact is going to be nothing less than profound. You're giving a voice and visibility to a disease that's been invisible for too long. So invisible that the official color of lung cancer is clear, not really a color, but kind of trying to picture clear T‑shirts on some of your players. I think some of the female fans will quite enjoy that. I might. But don't get me wrong, the clear color was well‑intentioned. It was meant to represent the unseen symptoms of the disease. But sadly it's come to symbolize how lung cancer patients often feel, which is invisible.

You and your teams have the power to change the course of this disease. As a nation, we've done it before with other diseases and we can do it now for lung cancer, and there is no better time to take on this challenge. It's an incredibly exciting time in lung cancer research. We're now finding ways to detect the disease earlier through non‑invasive means, and finding ways of more effectively treating it, including unleashing your body's own immune system to fight it.

Given the right level of investment, in the not too distant future, lung cancer will be not defined by the number of people who succumb to it, but the number of people who survive it. The money raised by this week's auction benefiting Lungevity is going to fund cutting edge research and has the potential to prolong and save millions of lives.

I'd like to give special thanks to the Baltimore Orioles. Buck, thank you, for the incredible way they've embraced Lungevity's vision to create a world where no one dies of lung cancer. Players have made contributions in Monica's name. The Orioles Bird even wore a Lungevity bowtie created by Ken Rosenthal's bowtie cause. We have human versions available too. I think Ben you have one, and now Josh has one. There are some outside as well.

Orioles Park and Camden Yard is home to the Lungevity's Breathe Deep Cancer Walk, and they've posted it on the JumboTron as well.

And Buck, you have my personal gratitude. Thank you. The way that you participate in these events and encourage the entire team to do so has been nothing short of remarkable.

Many of you in this room knew Monica, and for those who did not, I'm sorry that you missed out on knowing just an incredible person. But if you look within your own organization, you'll find someone who has been affected by lung cancer. I am deeply touched and grateful for all of you and especially the way the Orioles organization have wrapped their arms around Monica and now hold her legacy high. I promise not to let you nor Monica down. Thank you again for your commitment, and for helping people with lung cancer. I hope you all have a great season.

With that, I'd like to ask Buck Showalter to come up and say a few words about his relationship and what he knows about Monica and just his feelings towards this cause.

BUCK SHOWALTER: First of all, I think how happy ‑‑ we talk about the impact that people have in everybody's lives and we all have been touched by Monica. But the biggest thing I'd take right now is how much delight she would take that she's been able to get everybody in Baltimore Oriole colors here today. She would love that.

One thing that I remember, the first time I met Monica when I came in and I think we had a player that was kind of ducking some of the media, and I grabbed the player and said, you know, we need to talk to these people. You've been gone for a couple months. And I remember Monica, she had this high shrill voice when she'd get excited and she'd say, "I think we're going to get along just fine now."

And every time, she knew I would never read any paper or listen to broadcasts, and as we'd go down to do the postgame pregame I'd go, "Monica, what have we got today?"

She said, "You better be pretty good today, because he's got some challenges." And I'd leave and say, "How did we do?"

And she'd say, "Well, that was a matter of opinion." She was tough, and she was fair, and she impacted my life.

I think the thing I've taken out of this whole experience is how quickly it can change. I know Ben was talking about it during the walk fundraiser for Lungevity, that even in a week's time, and in two week's time and a month's time how many treatments come available that are better. They're constantly, it's not something that we're doing that might happen ten years from now. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen a week from now. They have treatments two weeks from now that weren't there. The experimental things that are going on. So you think this is just something that may impact down the road. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week. Someone won't have to go through the loss of a Monica Barlow, which still affects all of us.

She would be, like Ben said, not happy with this much attention on her, but if you said it was impacting other people's lives, she'd be okay with it. I'm still ticked off about Monica being gone. They say all will be revealed to you. I'm looking forward to this answer of why she was taken. So when I come to things like this, it makes me feel a lot better about it. So I think she will embrace that down the road, and I appreciate everybody giving it the time and attention that it needs, and believe me, you're impacting a lot of people and making this world a little bit better than we left it. I know she did. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: So one final reminder, that is for all of you that are here as well as all of you over there at your work stations, if you received help over the years from Monica or Dick or if you were inspired by the writing of Richard or Bryan, or if there is a cause that matters to you, please try to help us this week. That means write about it, take a few minutes and put it into your notebook. It means mention it on your broadcasts when you're doing reports back to home. Share it via social media. We all know that is the way this is going to take off and tell people how amazing these experiences are. Because there are a lot of people that would love the access and a lot of unique things we're going to give them an opportunity to do. And most importantly, we're doing it for an amazing cause. So with that, we'll smile for an actual photo.