Players themselves were only happy to give some examples to get you started. It is a topic that remains one of the sweetest traditions in the game, that feeling of playing catch in the backyard or that memory of your father taking you to your first game.
"My dad should be an MVP, because I'm pretty positive I wouldn't be standing here today without him," Royals left-hander Jeff Francis said Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, thinking about Michael Francis. "He put in the time, and driving me to games, driving me to practices, driving me all over town and across international borders to play baseball. Not only that, but the college education I got, the position I am in life, I owe to my two parents. I don't think I'd be where I am without my dad. He's proud of me, but I'm probably more proud of him."
"I think people are brought into your life to help you, and my dad was obviously a huge role model for me," Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher said of Steve Swisher, whose nine-season National League catching career spanned from 1974-82. "I mean, he was my hero, my idol when I was a kid, and he still is to this day. Everything he was doing, I wanted to do."
Father's Day is June 19, and the contest on MLB.com allows fans to submit short stories about why their father figures, or someone they know, are extraordinary in their daily lives and why they want them to be the Father's Day "MVP Dad" for their favorite MLB club. Entries are under way at MLB.com/mvpdad and will be accepted until the submission period closes on June 1.
During MLB's annual Father's Day national day of recognition, one "MVP Dad" per club will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive blue MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game. For clubs that are away on Father's Day, other home games in June will be selected to recognize contest winners.
"The love for the game of baseball has historically been passed down through generations, and this campaign recognizes our fans who make a difference in the lives of their loved ones," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, business. "We feel that it is a fitting way to commemorate our Father's Day celebration, and as a dad, I know how special it is to be an important part of my children's lives."
Winners will be selected by a panel that includes country music stars Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry of the country duo Montgomery Gentry; MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre; Prostate Cancer Foundation founder and chairman Michael Milken; MLB players including Mets left fielder Jason Bay, Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, Cubs first baseman Carlos Peña, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, A's catcher Kurt Suzuki,Giants closer Brian Wilson; and MLB Network analyst Billy Ripken. The winners will be selected based on the following: originality, quality of writing, demonstration of commitment to the role of father and public appeal as determined based on fan voting on MLB.com.
While the criteria for contest entries is not specifically focused on individuals with prostate cancer, supporting the mission of the Prostate Cancer Foundation is again a key item on the MLB Father's Day agenda. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men. More than two million American men are currently living with prostate cancer, according to estimates, and one new case occurs every 2.4 minutes.
"When you're talking about something like prostate cancer, one out of six people end up going through that," Swisher said. "The biggest thing is just to raise that awareness and say, 'Hey, man, don't be scared to go get tested. These things can be cured if you catch them in an early phase.' For me, giving back is such a huge part of my life. I've been so blessed and given so many things in my life, why would you not want to go out and try to help other people?
"I think MLB is doing such a great job of branding everything, just like the pink bats to help raise awareness and funding for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the fight against breast cancer. Now for Father's Day, we need to get the light blue bats. Why not just keep doing the same thing, to make sure that we as athletes and as an organization of Major League Baseball, we're doing our part."
The annual "Home Run Challenge" also will return next month to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation. This initiative, in its 15th year and culminating on Father's Day, will help increase awareness and early detection of prostate cancer. Since its inception, the initiative has raised nearly $36 million toward prostate-cancer research.
For each home run hit during 60 select MLB games from June 8-19, including all games played on Father's Day, fans can make monetary donations and pledges to the Prostate Cancer Foundation at www.pcf.org. Fans also can make a $10 donation by texting PCF to 20222 (message and data rates apply). Money raised through the "Home Run Challenge" goes directly toward prostate-cancer research. In 2009, $2.7 million was raised to fight prostate cancer through this challenge.
Major League Baseball Charities has committed $50,000 to PCF as part of this program. Additionally, on-field personnel, including players, managers, coaches, trainers, umpires and groundskeepers will wear blue wristbands and blue ribbon uniform decals symbolizing prostate cancer awareness. The blue ribbon logo also will appear on the official dugout lineup cards, which will be blue. In an effort to emphasize the impact of the disease, all MLB games played on June 19 will communicate information about prostate cancer.
The PCF "Home Run Challenge" is one of several cancer-related initiatives supported by MLB. Other initiatives include Stand Up To Cancer, whose mission is to support the groundbreaking scientific research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame; the "Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer" Mother's Day program dedicated to raising awareness and support for breast-cancer research, in partnership with Komen; and Play Sun Smart, a league-wide skin-cancer awareness program in conjunction with the MLB Players Association and the American Academy of Dermatology.
The PCF is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate-cancer research focused on discovering better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer. Founded in 1993, the PCF has raised nearly $400 million and provided funding for more than 1,500 research projects at nearly 200 institutions worldwide. The PCF also advocates for greater awareness of prostate cancer and more government research funds. PCF advocacy has helped produce a 20-fold increase in government funding for prostate cancer since 1994.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.