SAN DIEGO -- The Winter Meetings focus largely on the business of baseball, the potential wheelings and dealings between teams and players and agents. But baseball has a personal side, too, and that side rose up Monday afternoon in a Stand Up To Cancer gathering that kicked off an MLB auction to benefit LUNGevity.
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 unique baseball experiences and items to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The 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 Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow, who died of lung cancer in February.
Each MLB team has contributed items to auction off to fans. The Mariners came up with three unique offerings:
• The chance to watch Mariners batting practice from on-field, then meet Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, before watching the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
• A meet and greet with radio announcers Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith, with the chance to watch the first inning of a game (on a mutually agreeable date) from the Safeco Field radio booth and then watch the rest of the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
• A pregame tour of the TV truck compound and an on-field meeting with ROOT Sports broadcaster Brad Adam, then the opportunity to accompany him to his pregame show in center field before watching the game from behind home plate with four free tickets.
The public relations directors from all 30 teams gathered Monday to promote the auction and remember Barlow, who died at 36. Barlow's husband, Ben Barlow, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter both said she would have balked at being the center of such attention, but welcomed the effort to fight a disease that affects 400,000 Americans every year.
Of that number, about 60 percent are non-smokers, like Barlow.
The list of auction items from around baseball includes the chance for a fan to take out the lineup to an Orioles game with Showalter, a private pitching lesson with CC Sabathia, the chance to have Tony La Russa coach a Little League team for a game and a personal haircut from National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.
The auction, which has raised $250,000 over its first two years, ends at 8 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.