NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- More than two dozen Mets employees from various sects of the organization climbed onto a Winter Meetings stage early Monday, there to provide the kind of support that late staffer Shannon Forde always did. Longtime Mets public relations executive Jay Horwitz sighed loudly as he attempted to describe the impact that Forde had on the organization.
Perhaps chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said it best, gesturing to the employees around him: "This is what Shannon meant to all of us." It was with that in mind that the Mets became the focus of MLB's annual "Play Ball" auction initiative, which this year will direct proceeds to dedicating a youth baseball and softball field in Forde's name.
The auction at MLB.com/Shannon runs throughout the Winter Meetings, ending Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Among the items up for bid are:
• A 2017 All-Star experience, including tickets to the game in Miami.
• A chance to play catch at Wrigley Field, to serve as a credentialed media member at a Yankees game and other in-stadium opportunities.
• Dinner with Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzalez and the D-backs' 2001 World Series trophy.
• Meet-and-greets with players such as Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, and managers including the Indians' Terry Francona, the Yankees' Joe Girardi and the Marlins' Don Mattingly.
• Dinner with Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.
• And so many others from all 30 teams throughout baseball.
Inspired by Major League Baseball's numerous employees and friends who have been affected by cancer, MLB's "Play Ball" initiative has raised more than $685,000 since its inception five years ago. Proceeds from this year's event will go toward renaming a field in Forde's hometown of Little Ferry, N.J., to "Shannon Forde Field."
Major League Baseball and the Mets will also use funds to renovate the field by adding dugouts with protective fencing and benches, perimeter fencing, bleachers, a backstop, a scoreboard and field signs. And money will go toward enhancing youth programming at the complex.
Forde, who spent more than two decades in the Mets' organization, succumbed to breast cancer in March at age 44.
"To have this kind of recognition for her hometown, for her family ... we're tremendously proud to be the recipients of this, and accept this on behalf of Major League Baseball," Wilpon said. "All I can say is this is the group that loves and misses Shannon every single day. There's not much more you can say. It's bittersweet to be talking about this kind of tribute to such a young mother and friend and person that we lost way too soon."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.