Lester standing up to cancer
Sox left-hander leading charge in fight against deadly disease
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While only a select 37,000 or so will be able to attend the Red Sox's Fenway Park opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 6, there will be a different kind of rally being held all around the Boston area that day. It is one that has no attendance capacity.
In fact, the hope is that this rally will produce a ridiculous overflow of participants.
That is the date of the fourth annual Rally Against Cancer, in which Red Sox fans are encouraged to partner up with their business or school and have every student or employee contribute $5 to the Jimmy Fund. In exchange, all those who contribute can wear Red Sox clothing to work or school that day.
There is big incentive for the company and school that raises the most money. The winner will get a visit from Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who is the honorary chair of this year's Rally Against Cancer.
The only requirement is that the company or school must be within a two-hour drive of Boston to win the Lester visit. Anyone can sign up at www.rallyagainstcancer.org.
In August 2006, Lester was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. He had six chemotherapy treatments before becoming cancer-free. And not long after his comeback, Lester won the clinching Game 4 of the 2007 World Series. On May 19, 2008, Lester fired a no-hitter vs. the Royals. He is currently one of the top left-handed starters in the American League.
"Obviously, it's a great honor for me -- not only me, but my family to be a part of this great organization," said Lester. "Any time that we can call on the community to raise money for a great cause, not only for the Jimmy Fund but research in cancer in general, it's always a good thing. Any amount of money that we can get would definitely help out."
Mike Andrews, the second baseman of the 1967 AL pennant-winning Red Sox and longtime chairman of the Jimmy Fund, hopes that the economic struggles don't have an effect on the success of cancer research.
"Unfortunately, we know what the economy is like right now. To say we're not concerned would not be true," said Andrews. "Cancer does not realize that we're in a recession. We don't want to lose the ground that we are gaining and the enormous strides were making by not having the funding moving forward. I think more than any other time in my 30 years at Dana Farber, we're reaching out and asking people to do everything they can to support us this year."
Lester hopes that this year's donation sum will be record-setting.
"I'm a competitive person, and with [Dustin] Pedroia raising [more than $500,000] last year, we're definitely going to try to break his record," said Lester. "That's my goal going into this -- to get his name off the top of that list and get my name up there. Hopefully we can do a lot and raise a lot of money for this."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.