SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres, who are in first place in the National League West, are also at the forefront of Major League Baseball's fight against cancer. On Friday, the Padres announced their partnership with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an initiative to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The Padres have set a goal to raise $500,000 for SU2C during the 2010 season. MLB is a founding donor for the initiative, having donated more than $10 million. However, the Padres became the first team to have its own fundraising initiative.
Celebrity ambassador Ray Liotta, star of "Goodfellas" and "Field of Dreams," joined Padres manager Bud Black, Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Padres president Tom Garfinkel, a host of players and SU2C co-founder Laura Ziskin in unveiling the signing walls at PETCO Park on Friday. All fans will be encouraged to sign the wall panels -- located near the home-plate and east-village entrances -- in tribute to friends or family members who have been impacted by cancer. During the final homestand of the season, the outfield wall at PETCO Park will be replaced with this honorary wall. In addition, fans can donate money at the site. "I lost my mother to cancer while I was shooting Goodfellas," said Liotta in addressing the crowd at the Stand Up To Cancer press conference prior to Friday night's matchup with the Dodgers. "It means a lot to me to be part of this cause. I met Laura [Ziskin] at some silly celebrity party. I got to talking to her and she told me what happened to her, and knowing what I had been through, and this was something I wanted to be involved in. "I usually don't do things like this. But now I'm calling myself out on it. Major League Baseball is a part of this, but the San Diego Padres are the first team to give money. This being a competitive field that you are all into, I would like to throw down a challenge to all the other Major League teams to stand up and do the same thing that the San Diego Padres are doing." "When you sign this wall, you're making a statement who you're standing up for and why you're standing up," said Ziskin, who is a Hollywood producer (Spiderman trilogy). "If you choose to also make a donation, 100 percent of donations from the public go to fund and accelerate cancer research. "What we do that is different from any other cancer organization is really two-fold," said Ziskin, who co-founded SU2C with Lisa Paulsen and Sherry Lansing. "One, we make scientists work together. We make them compete against the disease of cancer instead of against each other. So we fund dream teams of scientists across institutions and across disciplines and impacting all kinds of cancer. That research is under way. We've already raised over $100 million and we're spending it, and we also fund innovative research. "And secondly, we will tell you where you're money goes," Ziskin said. "You put a dollar in that box, you will hear from us through our website and through the media what your money is going to pay for." "Today is a special day, a special day for the San Diego Padres and the community," said Garfinkel. "Cancer affects everybody. And what Stand Up To Cancer has done is create dream teams from around the world. One of the members of the pancreatic cancer dream team got up at the owners meeting and said, 'For the first time, we're not competing against each other. We're competing against the disease.' It was just too compelling not to get involved. "Our mission is focused on three things. Winning, first of all, creating a great fan experience and being involved in the community. With this initiative, it shows what we are trying to do in this community for our Live, Learn and Play initiative. And certainly this falls under our 'live' category. "The reality is that cancer hits everybody, it hit home for us recently when one of our own, Dave Roberts, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He couldn't be here today, but all of our thoughts are with Dave and his wife, Tricia. They have been an inspiration to all of us with their determination and positive attitude, and Dave is going to fight through this and be fine." Garfinkel also acknowledged another cancer survivor on the Padres in former bullpen coach Mark Merila, who is a part-time aide to third-base coach Glenn Hoffman. "It's unbelievable to be part of this thing," said Merila, who has battled through a brain tumor. "Everyone is affected by this, family or baseball players. It's so great that the Padres are the ones upfront and hopefully the other teams will follow their lead."
Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.