Cancer screening part of Trade Show
Bat for the Cure, Zero team up with mobile testing site at Meetings
LAS VEGAS -- Ed Randall has done a lot of significant and impressive things in his life, the adult portion of which has been immersed in baseball.But the one-time Minor League announcer and longtime New York City sports broadcasting icon doesn't think he has ever done anything more important than this: Standing outside a mobile home like a carnival barker, trying to rope people into entering to give some blood. "This is the most important thing I will do for the rest of my life," says the chairman of Bat for the Cure, a mushrooming organization mobilized to recognize and combat prostate cancer. "I could've been taken when I was 47 and I wasn't, so someone must have decided I have more work to do."
A survivor of prostate cancer detected at age 47, Randall is committed to turning the experience of being blindsided by that diagnosis into the education of others."I've had the great fortune to be around the game and get to know so many people in it," Randall said. "So this is a way of expressing my gratitude. What I want to do is make this the prostate equivalent of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation ... and they've got a 20-year lead on us." Bat for the Cure is gaining, and it hit a new gear Tuesday morning inside the Zero van parked inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. Subtitled "The Project to End Prostate Cancer," Zero -- which is working in tandem with Randall's Bat for the Cure -- has rolled into the Winter Meetings Trade Show to offer free testing to individuals and enroll more Minor League teams in a growing on-site testing program. Stationed on the fringes of the cavernous hall with Trade Show hubbub all around, signs and videos on the van's side encourage men to immediately begin their prostate-cancer awareness by stepping inside and having their blood tested for PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen). About an hour after the van's doors were opened and the steps lowered, Skip Lockwood, CEO of Zero, said: "We've already tested about a dozen. We're out to make people do something good for their health, and being in such a high-visibility situation is a tremendous benefit." Lockwood has for years virtually made his home in two mobile units that crisscross the country for the organization's mission. The other van has logged over 300,000 miles. The van at the Winter Meetings is the "low-mileage" edition, with only a little over 100,000 miles of tests, hope and advice registered so far. "Last year, we toured to 26 states and scanned 17,000 men," Lockwood said. "The year before, it was 22,000. The drop? That's the economy; we depend on funding, and that was down a bit for obvious reasons." However, the overall visibility of Zero is on the upswing, thanks to the collaboration with Randall's Bat for the Cure. The organizations teamed up for Prostate Cancer Awareness Nights in 71 Minor League ballparks in 33 states during 2008. Within the first 90 minutes of the Trade Show appearance, Randall's energy and persuasiveness signed up eight new clubs, a good start toward his '09 goal of 100-plus. This is not the easiest location to get men to think about health. The "lot of distractions" to which Lockwood refers include models displaying various wares and multimedia presentations of tech products. Next to Brett Brothers Bats, Redfield Infield TopDressing and Aerostar Blimps, Randall, Lockwood and their helpful recruits convince people to stop and ask questions or fill out the release forms that are necessary prerequisites for undergoing the blood test. "It's all about recognition," said Randall, who brings evangelical zeal to discussions of this problem. "There already is so much attention being paid breast cancer -- and deservedly so -- but this will affect a third more men next year than breast cancer will women. "Among white men, one in six will be affected. But the incidence is greater -- epidemic -- among black men, one out of four. Now that we have an African-American president, we hope that will shed even more light on the issue." Bat for the Cure's presence at a baseball Trade Show could not be any more natural. Not just because of MLB's commitment under Commissioner Bud Selig to the Stand Up To Cancer initiative -- defined by an initial contribution of $10 million -- but also because battling prostate cancer is an emerging mission close to the game's heart in the game's heartland. Pat O'Conner, president of Minor League Baseball, is expected to designate Bat for the Cure as one of his national network's official charity partner, right up there with the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Special Olympics. That would be yet another step on the road to awareness, another off-ramp from ignorance. "Men know that they have a prostate, but not what it is or what it does," said Lockwood. "We're out to change perceptions, to let them know this is something OK to talk about. "I'd like to make a reel of all the prostate jokes ever used in movies. That'd make it a man-friendly subject."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.