LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Padres bench coach Dave Roberts was a hot commodity in last year's MLB.com Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer. His private, hour-long baserunning and fielding lesson received more bids than any other item in a campaign that raised $152,700.
Roberts will be back on the board this year, available for another 60-minute personalized baserunning lesson, and it's easy to understand his enthusiasm for the fundraising initiative. Roberts is a cancer survivor himself, as he's been cancer-free since late 2010 after being diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma that spring. He now undergoes checkups only once a year and says he feels "really well."
"I think that for me to know that my time and people's money that goes to the auction is going directly to cancer research, and for Major League Baseball and Stand Up To Cancer to kind of forge this relationship, is pretty cool for me along with a lot of other people," Roberts said. "Obviously it's closer to me having gone through cancer. It just makes it that much easier to support."
The winner of that auction will get to take three guests to Petco Park, where they will meet with Roberts, go through the baserunning lesson and watch from the field as the Padres take batting practice. The group will then be whisked away on a behind-the-scenes tour of Petco Park and enjoy four field box seats to the game along with a special welcome message on the scoreboard.
Public relations representatives from all 30 clubs were inspired to act based on individual club members impacted by the disease, and they jointly organized the auction, which will be officially announced at a news conference on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with MLB staff.
Bidding closes at 7 p.m. PT Thursday with 80 baseball-related experiences ranging from private pitching and batting lessons with players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides and meet-and-greets with Hall of Fame players.
The Padres, the first team to partner with Stand Up To Cancer, have felt the impact of cancer beyond Roberts. Last June, bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, the longest-tenured member of their coaching staff, passed away at the age of 50 after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
San Diego renamed its Fireman's Award, given annually to the club's best reliever, the Darrel Akerfelds Bullpen Award in his honor.
But Roberts' enthusiasm for his contribution extends beyond the good cause and his personal experience, however. He thoroughly enjoyed watching as last year's winners took in the atmosphere at Petco Park, the way they walked on the field and looked at the coaches and players.
"It was a great opportunity for me to get involved, give back and help out a little bit for the Stand Up to Cancer campaign. The family that came out, we had a great time, got them on the field and introduced them to some of the players" Roberts said. "I honestly feel that I got a lot more enjoyment out of it than the family did. It's fun to kind of see Major League Baseball players and ballparks through their eyes, for a guy that's been around the game for so long.
"To be able to have a platform like that and to be able to extend an experience like that to a family is pretty special for anyone."