Dodgers 'meet-and-greets' available for great cause

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The focus of this year's annual MLB "Play Ball" auction initiative is to honor one of its own.

Shannon Forde died in March of breast cancer at 44, leaving behind not only her immediate family but an extended family throughout baseball that she served as a public-relations executive with the New York Mets.

This year's "Play Ball" auction, which began on Monday, will direct proceeds to dedicating a youth baseball and softball field in Forde's name. The field is across the street from her childhood home in Little Falls, N.J.

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. MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 teams are participating in the auction, which runs through 9 p.m. ET on Thursday.

"Shannon dedicated her life to Major League Baseball and the Mets, and we miss her smile every day," said Joe Jareck, Dodgers senior director of public relations. "Every dollar raised by the Play Ball auction will go toward ensuring her lasting legacy makes not only her family proud, but the countless number of kids that will play this great game on Shannon Forde Field."

The Dodgers have donated "Meet-and-Greet" experiences with National League Manager of the Year Award winner Dave Roberts and legendary pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, and a "Spring Training Bay Boy/Bat Girl" experience. The full list of auction experiences -- including "meet-and-greets" with Randy Johnson, Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia -- can be viewed at mlb.com/shannon.

"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," said Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer.

"The Shannon Forde Field will be exactly across where she grew up in Little Ferry, New Jersey," said Jay Horwitz, vice president of media relations for the Mets. "It was her parents' house. It's the same field she played on with her sister Alicia and her niece when she was a kid.

"It's the same field that her father, Mike, coached softball for years and years. It's the same field on which her young kids, Nicki and Kendall, will play for years and years. Nicki is 9 and Kendall is 6, and they probably don't know what kind of a person their mother was. Hopefully, in years to come, when they look up and see Shannon Forde Field, they get an idea of what kind of mom they had."

In addition to being renamed, the field will be renovated with dugouts, fencing, bleachers, a backstop and a scoreboard.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.