Fans help fight cancer at All-Star 5K

Fans help fight cancer at All-Star 5K

KANSAS CITY -- Mike Sweeney, a five-time All-Star who spent 13 seasons with the Royals, came home on Sunday. He brought along with him his own team this time, the "Sween Team," about 200-strong in the field of more than 8,000 runners at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run presented by Nike.

Sweeney brought along his father-in-law, former Major Leaguer Jim Nettles. Sunday's race raised funds and awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Stand Up To Cancer, and in Sweeney's case it was extremely personal. Jim and his two brothers, including former Major League star and older brother Graig, all were diagnosed with prostate cancer and beat it.

"It's an emotional day, because my father-in-law right here, he had prostate cancer," Sweeney said. "He gave me a phone call on a March morning at Spring Training in 2006 in Surprise, Ariz., and it was something that rocked my world when he told me, 'I have cancer.' Thank God I'm associated with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and they gave him all the help he needed. The doctor gave him three options, and all of them were terrible, at best. Here he is running the race, he flew in from Seattle, and he is cancer-free. So it's an emotional day for sure, but it's going to be a fun day."


It was a banner day not just in terms of participants, but also for the men's winner, Caleb Hoover of Joplin, Mo. Hoover ran a record time of 15:10 despite a hilly and hot course, beating the mark of 15:21 set in the inaugural running at St. Louis in 2009. Hoover was followed by Aaron Davidson of Lenexa, Kans. (15:30), and Aaron Caldwell of Overland Park, Kans. (16:09). Jenn Deal of St. Louis topped the women's field in 18:01, followed by Sammy Laurenzo of Kansas City (18:54) and Michelle Andrew of Topeka, Kan. (19:22). Rene Peterson of Independence, Mo., won the male wheelchair category in 17:09.

The All-Star 5K (#ASG5K) returned from a year's absence due to the climate in Phoenix, and it continued to grow in stature and entry numbers. Sweeney handed out medals to the finishers in the iconic Power & Light District, among a slew of celebs who gave their support. Besides Hall of Famer George Brett, on hand was 2008 "American Idol" David Cook; "The Biggest Loser" host Alison Sweeney; and former Royals Willie Aikens, Jeff Montgomery and John Wathan.

Dignitaries at the Sprint Center start included MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan; SU2C co-founders Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz; vice president of baseball and sports enterprise at Prostate Cancer Foundation Dave Perron; and Carli Good, development and marketing director at Komen. Brett was the official race-starter, firing up a sea of runners who already were largely giddy just to be in the Hall of Famer's presence on a sunny summer Sunday.

"I think what you people are doing today is probably the most important event that we've been able to do," Brett said, referring to the wide range of All-Star community events by the Royals and MLB. "I know everybody in this town, especially me, I lost two family members to cancer, and to help find a cure is something really special to me. Everybody knows somebody who died of cancer.

"I want to thank all the people from Kansas City for their hospitality that they have shown so many people. And all the people not from Kansas City, I hope you understand now why we live here. This is a wonderful city, and I'm proud to be a Kansas Citian."

Then they were off, and after All-Star Week began with consecutive days around 105-106 degrees, the heat broke just enough to make it a great experience for all.

"It's always great to see a good idea turn into a big idea," Brosnan said. "Look, the real benefit is all of these people are all running to benefit the fight against cancer, and some of them don't even know it. But 100 percent of the proceeds here go to fight cancer in one way or the other. Baseball is always trying to give back, so having an event like this at the All-Star Game that really focuses everybody on that is really terrific."

Cook worked in the Stadium Club suites (waiting on Brett, he recalls) five years ago, so this is a homecoming for him. He ran in the event, then was to play later in the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game at Kauffman Stadium.

"I'm trying really hard to be professional this weekend, but I am a fan," Cook said. "Working for the Royals for five years, I always thought that if the All-Star Game or World Series is ever here, I've got to be a part of it. So now that the All-Star Game is here and I get to do all this amazing stuff, I'm going to annoy some former athletes with some autographs, I've got a feeling."

One by one, the representatives for the three cancer-fighting organizations expressed their appreciation for the big signup number and an overall common enthusiasm for the cause.

"I'm happy to be here to support Stand Up To Cancer. If they ask me, I would come running for them," Alison Sweeney said after flying in from Los Angeles. "They're an amazing organization; they help so many people. I love that they have brought all the different forms of cancer together to make such a strong statement about eradicating cancer in our lives."

Good said: "On behalf of all us at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the countless women who we serve in Kansas City -- uninsured low-income women who we help get screened -- and on behalf of everyone, thank you so much for your support. Because with you, you'll help us fulfill our mission to end breast cancer forever."

Jim Nettles, who played parts of six seasons from 1970-81, is a testament to what good can happen through scientific research. Jim looked out into the field of runners and said that if you took 500 men out there, 150 would have prostate cancer sometime in their lifetime. It reminded him of that day in 2006 when he called Mike.

"I was really kind of down for about a day," Nettles said. "It's funny how it didn't last very long. It was like, 'You know, this is a very beatable thing.' Research is so good now. I knew I caught it early. I know he was praying for me and he had other people praying for me, and it helped out a lot."

Additional sponsors of the 5K included Aquafina, Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Gatorade, One A Day and Scotts. The University of Kansas Hospital is the official healthcare provider for 2012 MLB All-Star Week and provided medical and first-aid care for the event.

The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 ET/6:30 CT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.