CHICAGO -- The word "bulldog" regularly attaches to descriptions of Jake Peavy's on-field persona much like swings and misses have been connected with Peavy's exceptional 2012 on-field performances, which will continue Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.
That special tenacity shows itself when Peavy prowls around the mound after batters are retired or lets loose with a primal yell when he misses on location even in the first or second pitch of the game. Now Peavy is taking on his most insidious foe to date with that same battling nature.
In conjunction with the Jake Peavy Foundation, Peavy has put together "A Day with Jake Peavy" charity raffle, with proceeds from this unique fundraiser benefiting Peavy's foundation and pancreatic cancer research. This idea was originated in honor of Darrel Akerfelds, the San Diego Padres' bullpen coach who has valiantly battled this illness.
Defining the bond between Peavy and Akerfelds involves more than simply stating player/coach dating back to their Padres days together.
They are close friends, bordering on being more like father and son. So Peavy has taken on the personal task to help his extended but unofficial family.
"I'm doing this because I want him to know I'm fighting it with him as much as I can," said Peavy. "I just wanted to honor my friend and wanted to raise awareness with different causes that I wanted to do all through my tenure in baseball.
"[I want to] make the world a better place. This is a very small part of it, but we are called as athletes to use our platform to try to make a difference in people's lives for whatever is near and dear to your heart."
What Peavy is doing exactly would be providing the raffle winner and three guests an inside look at White Sox baseball and some parts of the pitcher's life.
This raffle winner will take in all three Cubs games at U.S. Cellular Field, from June 18-20, with one game from a luxury suite and two games from field-level seats. They will join Peavy on a non-pitching game day to watch batting practice and meet his teammates on the field.
There's also a private lunch with Peavy at one of his favorite Chicago restaurants, along with an autographed Peavy jersey and four autographed Peavy photos, three nights in a local hotel and an expense allowance of $500 for other costs such as meals or ground transportation. An out-of-town winner will be flown to Chicago by Peavy, with limo service provided for an in-town winner.
"Anyone has a chance to win this thing," Peavy said. "It's the luck of the draw. I hope people do it because they want to win the prize. At the same time, in doing it, know they are making a difference: a small donation and a big difference."
Tickets cost $2 each, with a minimum purchase of five tickets, and they are discounted for purchases of 10 or more tickets. The raffle already is open and closes at 10 a.m. CT on June 12, with tickets available at netraffle.org.
"This is really a big series for us and for the city," Peavy said. "So it's going to be fun, I promise you that."
Akerfelds and Peavy go back to the 31-year-old's professional baseball origins. He was a pitching coach in Spring Training when the Padres' 15th-round pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft was in Minor League camp.
"Ack was a great teacher, a great mentor, and his mentality was just gutsy and gritty," Peavy said. "He always made sure that the guys he was coaching were getting after it.
"Through my 8 1/2 years in San Diego in the big leagues, Ack was there for every last bit of it. There's so much turnover in the game. Players vary from year to year, where you might have two or three years with a guy, especially in San Diego, and Ack was that constant. We became incredible buddies, amazing friends, and not just professional, in baseball-wise."
That amazing friend will celebrate his 50th birthday on June 12, approximately 19 months after being originally diagnosed following back surgery. This charitable endeavor also is being done in honor of Peavy's maternal grandmother, Dama Lolley, who Peavy describes as "hanging in there" and trying to enjoy every moment she has while undertaking her own cancer battle.
"Hopefully nobody else has to go through what these two have had to deal with over the last few months," Peavy said.
Even during the many tough days, Akerfelds knows there are special people on his side, "pulling on the same rope in trying to get him better," as Peavy said. Akerfelds has told Peavy through texts and phone calls about his excitement in bringing light to the situation.
"He's down and out and battling for his life, and I just wanted him to know, I keep telling him all the time, 'Keep fighting. We are going to hang out,'" Peavy said. "He has never given in one second, and the stuff that he kept saying to me was just hitting home. He said, 'I can't give up. What if tomorrow something happens and there's a chance.' That's just Ack, if you know Ack. He's been an absolute bulldog through this.
"Everyone understands the numbers, and we knew that going in. Most people don't make it as far as he made it. The doctors want him to celebrate and throw parties here and there, but he's wanted no part of that. He's battling this thing to the end, and I want him to know I'm trying to fight this thing with you and I'm in the trenches with you trying to make a difference."