Ballparks to host activities Friday as baseball promotes league-wide initiative
By Mark Newman
Players Weekend brought a splash of seemingly every color to Major League Baseball fields, with special uniforms and equipment that served as a fun nod to youth baseball.
Labor Day weekend will begin with players wearing a unique color to represent youth as well, but this will have a far different meaning. MLB announced that for the second consecutive year, clubs will dedicate a special "Childhood Cancer Awareness Day" at all ballparks on Friday, in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
In partnership with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), MLB and all clubs will raise awareness for the fight against childhood cancer by having all Major League players, coaches, umpires and grounds crew members wear gold ribbon decals and wristbands.
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children ages 15 and under in the U.S. Every year, an estimated 300,000 new cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20 worldwide.
"Advocating for the health and well-being of young people affected by this terrible disease is a cause that Major League Baseball and our clubs are proud to support," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Through our league-wide effort, we will join Stand Up To Cancer and many organizations dedicated to this fight in a unified demonstration of our sport's commitment to ending childhood cancer."
Through this effort, clubs may choose to partner with local nonprofits, including hospital partners or organizations focused on childhood cancer. Clubs and players may also donate tickets, ballpark suites and funds to Stand Up To Cancer and local partner organizations. Club activities may also include pregame ceremonies, first pitches, check presentations to nonprofits and hospitals, online campaigns and special childhood cancer awareness batting-practice T-shirts.
Five clubs -- the Braves, White Sox, Astros, Marlins and Rays -- are collaborating with MLB and the Starlight Children's Foundation to present local pediatric cancer hospitals or individual pediatric cancer care units with Starlight Fun Centers. Those mobile entertainment units, traditionally donated by MLB and clubs at jewel events, are equipped with the latest gaming systems to provide bedside entertainment to pediatric patients. Hospitals selected by the clubs will also receive a donation of Starlight Brave Gowns, which are high-quality, comfortable and brightly colored gowns for young patients to wear while in the hospital.
The Twins will get a jump start on the proceedings, as Wednesday's home game against the White Sox is Cancer Awareness Night, honoring those who fight all forms of cancer. Then on Friday, the players will wear their childhood cancer shirts during batting practice, and in pregame ceremonies that night, the Twins will honor families that have been affected by childhood cancer. A benefit auction of the same theme is likely later in the month.
The Phillies will join MLB and the league-wide effort by hosting #PhilliesGoGold events each week during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The first one will be at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, Sept. 7, a fashion show at Citizens Bank Park benefiting the Kisses for Kyle Foundation.
Clubs on the road on Friday may select another home game to observe Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Here are other examples of club plans this weekend:
In Baltimore, the Orioles will welcome a 17-year-old Make-A-Wish Foundation member from nearby Fallston, Md. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in January, the boy will sign a contract from Dan Duquette, the team's executive vice president of baseball operations, to become an honorary member of the Orioles' team for the day, and he will have his own locker with his nameplate and a jersey, glove and hat waiting inside. The boy will deliver the team's lineup card to the umpires and throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game against Toronto.
Fans attending that game can learn more about how to support the fight against pediatric cancer by visiting Cool Kids Campaign at the OriolesREACH Community Booth on the lower concourse by Gate D. In addition, Dr. Ashley Munchel of the University of Maryland Medical System will be given the Birdland Community Heroes recognition. She is being honored for her care and compassion in the community, as a lead physician with the pediatric cancer department at UMMS, among other key roles.
The Mariners announced that, in addition to the MLB-wide plans on Friday, they will join with Seattle Children's Hospital throughout September to promote a "Strong Against Cancer" message at Safeco Field.
Detroit asks fans to visit tigers.com/pediatric for details of their special pediatric cancer awareness ticket package, pertaining to the nightcap of their doubleheader against Cleveland. Fans are encouraged to wear gold, and there will be a variety of special activities along the Comerica Park concourse including face painting and interactive games to provide young Tigers fans and their families with a unique entertainment experience.
The Tigers, along with FOX Sports Detroit and CBS Radio, have teamed up with Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan (CLF) to support disease and treatment education, social work based emotional support and financial assistance for patients and their families affected by leukemia, lymphoma and other blood related disorders throughout the state of Michigan. The special ticket package includes a $5 donation opportunity to CLF.
Will it be an omen for Cubs fans at Wrigley Field? For the second year in a row, Cubs Charities will again join MLB by "going gold" there, as the team hosts Atlanta at 2:20 p.m. ET. Cubs players and coaches will wear gold ribbon decals and wristbands, as well as participate in a special pregame activity alongside pediatric cancer patients and their families. Cubs Charities 50/50 raffle proceeds will go to Cubs players' foundations. Continuing his "Respect Community" T-shirt initiative, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will represent the MLB initiative to support the fight against pediatric cancer during his postgame news conference.
That same night on the south side of Chicago, patients from Comer Children's Hospital will don special gold White Sox capes, participate in the "Kids Take the Field" event and announce "Play ball!" before the game against Tampa Bay.
In Miami, where the Marlins continue their Wild Card pursuit against the Phillies, players and umpires will join forces. The Marlins and UMPS Care, an organization founded by MLB Umpires to provide financial and emotional support for youth and families in need, will partner to host a Build-A-Bear workshop at Alex's Place at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
An important series in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry will unfold starting Friday in the Bronx, where the Yankees will host Little League World Series participant Fairfield (Conn.) American in a Field of Dreams. Members of that team will take the field with the Yankees for the national anthem. Brett Gardner will be wearing two sets of specialized cleats that will be up for bidding later at MLB.com/auctions to benefit Sloan Kettering Pediatric Cancer.
In Pittsburgh, the Pirates will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations that focus on pediatric cancer to host 25 children and their families at the game against Cincinnati at PNC Park. The Bucs will host a special pregame ceremony that will see players, coaches and wives provide the children with special Pirates capes.
On Saturday, the Giants will partner with Buster Posey, his wife Kristen, Esurance and the V Foundation for a series of activations. Activities will include a home-plate ceremony with childhood cancer patients and their families, a check presentation from Esurance's "Quotes for a Cure" campaign, and Giants players donning the Buster Posey Pediatric Cancer Awareness Cap during batting practice. The Giants will also offer a special ticketing package that includes a game ticket and a Posey bobblehead, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Buster & Kristen Posey Fund at the V Foundation -- an organization founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano with the mission of beating cancer.
Later that night, the Brewers are partnering with the American Cancer Society to host the first Coaches vs. Cancer Night at Miller Park. Fans can purchase a special Coaches vs. Cancer ticket package, and a donation will be made to the American Cancer Society for every package sold. Additionally, there will be a special pregame parade in which all ticket package purchasers are invited to walk the warning track as a celebration of their support in the fight against cancer.
On Tuesday, the Padres will recognize Pediatric Cancer Awareness at their home game against St. Louis. Representatives from The Young and the Brave Foundation, the Seany Foundation and Rady Children's Hospital will be recognized during the pregame ceremony for their commitment to supporting young adults, children and families diagnosed with cancer.
Teams that are not at home have been making plans for other dates to rally with their fans around this cause. Examples:
As part of their activation on Sept. 10, the Braves will host a group of children affected by cancer for pregame ceremonies. Special guests will be treated to an on-field parade prior to the game, and one special guest will have the opportunity to deliver the rosin bag to the pitcher's mound. The Braves will also award four pediatric cancer survivors with the Diamond of Courage Award, which recognizes those who have made a difference in the cancer outreach community. Each participating nonprofit will select a child to present their organization for this award (Cure, Curing Kids Cancer, Camp Sunshine and Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research). Braves pitcher Jason Motte will provide gold "Strike Out Cancer" T-shirts for all players to wear to and from the ballpark.
On Sept. 24, the Reds will partner with The Cure Starts Now, a local organization committed to finding a cure for cancer, to hold a group fundraiser. The Reds will also collaborate with Love Your Melon, an organization that provides hats to children battling cancer, to offer fans a special ticketing package including a game ticket and a beanie. A portion of each ticket sold will be donated to a pediatric cancer charity. The package will be available for games on Sept. 15, 17 and 21.
The Rays will partner with the CureSearch for Children's Cancer and the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital (JHACH) to honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. As part of the club's support of CureSearch, the Rays will sponsor the organization's marquee event "Superheroes Unite!" -- a fundraising walk benefitting cancer research and treatment. for those who cannot participate in that event due to medical condition, the Rays mascot, Raymond, will lead an inpatient walk on Sept. 15. In addition, the Rays will donate a catered suite for the organization to use as a fundraising prize. On Sept. 17, the club will host patients from JHACH at Tropicana Field to participate in a series of activities, including the "Kids Take the Field" event, Honorary Bat Kid and Play Ball Kid ceremonies, radio interviews and the seventh-inning stretch.
"We are honored to help kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with our players," said Rays president Brian Auld. "We're all proud to bring attention to such a worthy cause and to all those working to bring us closer to a cure."
MLB and clubs have supported the fight against cancer for many years. As founding donor of Stand Up To Cancer, MLB has provided both financial support (more than $40 million) and countless opportunities to raise awareness for SU2C by encouraging fans around the world to get involved. MLB has recognized SU2C at its jewel events since the 2009 World Series. Recent club activations have included special gold pediatric cancer awareness batting practice T-shirts, online campaigns to empower fans to become fundraisers for pediatric cancer research and donations to local children's hospitals. Previous league-wide efforts included a $1 million donation to CureSearch.
Please visit MLBCommunity.org for more information on MLB's year-round outreach efforts.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.