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Maz statue up for bid to aid cancer research effort

NASHVILLE -- Stand Up To Cancer, the unprecedented mechanism to fund research for combating the disease that was established with the help of Major League Baseball, is getting a major push from an unprecedented effort by the public relations personnel of all 30 teams.

The PR army, each soldier wearing a SU2C T-shirt, held a Monday midday media conference to announce an online auction of unique personal experiences in conjunction with the Winter Meetings.

Arizona's Josh Rawitch, serving as the group's spokesman, said motivation for organizing the benefit was "so many of our friends and colleagues recently affected by cancer."

Mets public relations executive Shannon Forde was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. D-backs club president Derrick Hall has been battling back from prostate cancer since September 2011. That's just two of too many examples.

Baseball's Winter Meetings include the Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer, which 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 and announced it Monday in Nashville with MLB staff. Bidding closes at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday, with more than 70 baseball-related experiences ranging from clubhouse tours by players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides to meet-and-greets with 16 Hall of Fame players.

"We felt it was time for us to stand up, and the Winter Meetings present the only opportunity each year when all 30 managers, general managers and all of the media come together," Rawitch said. "With the unique access we are all fortunate to have to some of the game's greatest treasures, it's really our responsibility to do our part, and we hope this is only the beginning."

Pirates fans can bid on two opportunities:

• A solid bronze replica statue of Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski (one of only 50 produced), numbered and autographed by Maz.

• A suite for 15 people for a selected 2013 home game, based on availability, including the opportunity to watch pregame batting practice on the field.

One of their hosts on that occasion doubtless will be Jeff Banister, who never misses an opportunity to participate in a SU2C function. For the best possible reason: The Pirates' bench coach survived a frightening, debilitating bout with bone cancer back when fighting the disease was a far more solitary struggle.

Banister is the ideal messenger of cancer survival, beginning his battle against bone cancer and osteomyelitis long before he could even begin his playing career, as a teenager.

As a consequence of the disease, Banister had to undergo seven operations on his left ankle and leg in one year alone, in 1980. At one point, the doctor's recommendation was to have a leg amputated.

Banister's reaction to that advice captured the passion and determination of people dealing with the condition today.

"I`d rather die than not be able to play baseball."

SU2C takes it a huge step further: Doing everything possible toward a day no one has to suffer from the disease.

The SU2C movement was born in Hollywood's show-business community, but its chances of survival, or certainly impact, were endangered until Commissioner Bud Selig gave his, and his sport's, support.

"We wouldn't be here today without Commissioner Selig," said Kathleen Lobb, a senior vice president of Entertainment Industry Foundation a co-founder of SU2C. "Major League Baseball has consistently engaged fans in joining our movement, having them literally stand up by the tens of thousands in stadiums across the country to show their unity in fighting cancer.

"Yet again," Lobb added, surrounded by the PR reps, "the 30 clubs have shown their deep commitment to this cause by creating these unbelievable experiences for the auction. I can't begin to express how amazing it is to hear all this support."

"This is such a busy time for all these people, yet they've all made this a priority," said Jacqueline Parker, MLB chief marketing officer. "The statistics for people affected by cancer are numbing; these are statistics we want to change."

To borrow a phrase from the annual All-Star campaigns, "Bid early, bid often."