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ARLINGTON -- Players in both World Series dugouts participated for the first time along with a sellout crowd as Major League Baseball and Stand Up To Cancer on Sunday staged a cooperative live in-game event to put ballpark and global focus on ending cancer in our lifetimes.
MLB dedicated the first four games of the 107th Fall Classic to community initiatives
, and the theme of Game 4 was cancer research and backing SU2C. Game 1 was dedicated to veterans and military families, Game 2 to community service and Game 3 was centered around youth.
As they did at the All-Star Game in Phoenix, MLB and SU2C handed out placards to fans entering the gates. Each one read: "I STAND UP FOR ________." Many fans wrote names on their placards and held them up as FOX came out of a commercial for the start of the sixth inning. There was a giant countdown clock on the video scoreboard, so fans knew exactly when to raise their placards.
"The entire bullpen did it from our staff. We all had somebody down there," said Cardinals reliever Marc Rzepczynski, who held up a sign for his girlfriend's dad, Lou Salazar, who is in remission following a diagnosis of colon cancer. "It's for all the people who have survived cancer. It's a huge deal throughout the world. It's one of those diseases we haven't found a cure for yet, so any time you can give a moment to the survivors and remember, it's a great chance to do that."
C.J. Wilson was charting pitches in advance of his Game 5 start, but he said it was moving to be part of such a unique setting.
"It was really emotional," Wilson said. "Cancer has obviously affected a lot of people, including my family, and the fact that Major League Baseball is such a leader. ... It is a good thing that players and ownership and everybody in baseball are able to communicate such an important message. Everybody is in it together against cancer."
Ann Guenzel of Arlington stood up from her seat near the Mezzanine level behind home plate and held up three placards, for anyone and everyone to see. Her sister, Susan, has lung cancer; her mother, Mary, is a melanoma survivor; and her nephew, Thomas, is a rhabdomyosarcoma childhood cancer survivor. Thomas was 8 when he was diagnosed and is now 13.
"I was very moved about this," Guenzel said. "It was the first thing I thought of. I even brought my own pen to be able to write on the cards."
Seeing end-to-end dugout participation in a major sporting event was breathtaking. Guenzel saw the players being shown on the giant scoreboard and said, "It's wonderful.
"I think the advances have been so spectacular. ... We thank everybody that's working on this."
MLB is founding sponsor of SU2C and has donated more than $30 million to SU2C since 2008. Together they use this game as a platform to promote the fight against cancer and fund the research of "dream team" scientists. Progress happens symbolically and in the labs. Players getting involved is one step.
"After the All-Star Game, there was a lot of awareness, and a lot of people who were impacted by the moment of seeing people personalize standing up to cancer," said Jacqueline Parkes, MLB senior vice president of marketing. "So today when we got to the ballpark, we all got to the gates at 1 o'clock, and we started to get ready, and players were coming in and they asked if they, too, would get the placards.
"Obviously this is a significant game of consequence, and we wanted to make sure they had it available to them, but we didn't want to intrude on their personal time. It then got escalated to other people finding out about it, asking us if we would make it available to them, explaining it to them. So we sent people to each clubhouse. They briefed the players on what we were doing, made the placards available and told them they had no obligation to do anything.
"If they had somebody impacted by cancer, we didn't want them to not be part of the moment. You saw what happened. Almost the entire dugout on both sides. It was absolutely incredible. It just shows that cancer impacts all of us, and we all stand up to cancer. Stand Up To Cancer has created a movement that won't stop until they find a cure in the fight against cancer."
What also made this event remarkable was the fact that three heads of those dream teams were on the field in a pregame ceremony, as MasterCard, an MLB sponsor, presented a check for $4,125,000 to SU2C. Dr. Arnold Levine, Dr. Bill Nelson and Dr. Ray DuBois are on SU2C's scientific advisory committee.
Pam Williams, an SU2C co-founder, produced the Game 4 event, picking up for Laura Ziskin, the noted filmmaker who had conceived and directed the first of these starting with the 2009 World Series at Philadelphia.
"She was the 'impatient patient,'" Williams said. "She demanded that the scientists work together and that they stop competing against one another and start competing against the disease.
"That's what Stand Up To Cancer has truly done in the first three years while Laura was alive. We didn't get that treatment to her fast enough. That broke the scientists' heart, that they could not get it. So we all feel that incredible burden and responsibility to not stop. Because there are millions of Lauras out in this world right now who tomorrow will be diagnosed with cancer, and we have to stop it now."
How about progress?
"Those scientists who are here with us tonight are seeing new treatments get within the pathway to get to patients within the first year," said Williams. "They are -- I'd like to say the word 'giddy' -- but they are also taken by the impact, that when we all really focus and demand that answer that things happen. It was amazing to have the scientists here, to let them be able to see the thousands of patients here tonight, and the thousands of loved ones to those patients.
"It's about accelerating the movement and making sure everyone knows that they have a stake in this, and that if we all come together, we can demand an answer. ... One out of two men and one out of three women will be affected by this disease. When you see everyone standing up united, it's hugely personal, but it's also hugely empowering. That idea of hope -- that's what we really want to see. When we are all empowered to take action, we have that hope."