With his 3-run home run in the fourth inning, Prince Fielder led the National League to a 5-1 victory in Major League Baseball's 82nd All-Star Game on Tuesday. But Prince Fielder, Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and teammates were not the only greats to play on Phoenix's Chase Field this week. On Wednesday morning, before the All-Star dust could settle, a group of cancer scientists, physicians, survivors, and family members took the field to play the final games of the MLB's All-Star Game Fantasy Camp.
Courtesy of MasterCard, MLB All-Star Fantasy Camp provided a much deserved break from the world of cancer for a number of oncology researchers, physicians, patients, and family members all of whom are involved in Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an initiative for which Major League Baseball is the founding donor.
For Stephen Baylin, MD, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University and leader of the Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics "Dream Team," the opportunity was a dream come true. Dr. Baylin, an avid Orioles fan who played semi-pro baseball until entering medical school, was thrilled to suit up again and play ball after 48 years.
Howard Young, a Braves fan and a pancreatic cancer survivor of nearly nine years, made the trip from his home in Atlanta to join in the festivities. He was excited for the chance to be trained and coached by former MLB All-Star, Steve Finley, getting pointers on how to swing and how to get ready to field the ball. Mr. Young was diagnosed at the age of 42 with pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive of malignancies. He underwent treatment in consultation with members of the Stand Up To Cancer pancreatic Dream Team, and is currently cancer-free.
As part of the Fantasy Camp experience, the Stand Up To Cancer players received standard MLB uniforms, cleats, and equipment. They were divided into four teams, and were coached by former MLB All-Stars: Reggie Sanders, Greg Swindell and Tony Womack in addition to Steve Finley. The teams' on-the-field experience began with two days of training, practice, and tournament-type games on Salt River Fields, the official spring training facility for the Diamondbacks and Rockies, and culminated in final games on Chase Field on Wednesday, July 13.
Before the games began, the coaches and players stood on Chase Field, as Fantasy Camp player Eric Henderson sang the National Anthem. The players' names and pictures appeared on the massive scoreboard. Jon Warden, who spent time getting to know each of the players during the camp, provided the expert play-by-play with a personal touch.
In the first game, Team 2, representing the American League and coached by Steve Finley, played against Team 4, representing the National League and coached by Greg Swindell. An especially meaningful moment during this game occurred when Roberta Landis, a survivor undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, took her turn at bat along with a teammate who volunteered to run the bases on her behalf. She swung, nailed the ball, and the runner sped to first base, prompting a standing ovation from both teams.
The final championship game came down to Teams 1 and 3. Team 1, representing the National League, was coached by Reggie Sanders and Team 3, representing the American League, by Tony Womack. The American League batted first and, thanks in part to a great hit by Dr. Charlie Roberts of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, scored the first runs of the game. Dr. Waun Ki Hong, who, in his day job, heads the division of cancer medicine at MD Anderson -- one of the world's largest cancer centers -- provided guidance as the third base coach and made sure his team scored first. Dr. Baylin's single drove in a run.
After three innings, the American League had a commanding lead of 8 to 3, and it looked like an easy win, but Coach Sanders rallied his team and, in the fifth inning after an amazing catch by participating scientist Michael Barrett, the momentum changed. The National League rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning and scored seven exciting runs to end the game with a come-from-behind win of 10 to 8.
As their time at Fantasy Camp came to a close, the players left the stadium, exhilarated by their MLB experience and reminded of Stand Up To Cancer's goal of making everyone diagnosed with cancer a long-term survivor. Dr. Barrett, an associate professor at the Translational Research Genomics Institute (TGen) and member of the Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic "Dream Team," summed it all up: "To be able to look around and see researchers, doctors, patients, and families on the field, all having fun together -- it allowed us to experience a true sense of belonging, of community, to step back and appreciate what we're a part of. It's about living."
For more information on the MLB, visit http://www.mlb.com
For more information on Stand Up To Cancer and cancer research, visit www.su2c.org.