Aces look to strike out skin cancer

Aces look to strike out skin cancer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitchers Curt Schilling and Johan Santana have dueled numerous times on the baseball mound but they had never met face to face until Friday afternoon.

It was a special cause that brought the two aces together as they joined forces to help spread the word about protecting your skin from the sun in order to prevent dangerous forms of skin cancer like melanoma. Raising awareness for this is something that is dear to both aces, who have each been affected by the deadly disease.

Schilling's wife Shonda founded the SHADE Foundation of America after she survived her battle with melanoma nearly five years ago. The primary focus of the foundation is to educate children about sun-safety as statistics have shown that one in five kids will grow up to have skin cancer.

The press conference was to announce that Santana would become the ambassador for SHADE program in the state of Minnesota. The reasoning behind Santana's involvement is that he was touched by the deadly issue earlier this year, when Lynne Greenberg, the wife of his baseball agent, Ed Greenberg, succumbed to the disease.

The Twins ace said he hoped that joining forces with Schilling's organization would help get out the message that anyone can be affected by the disease no matter race, age or gender.

"Hopefully we will get people to take notice of this issue not only in Minnesota and this country but throughout the world," Santana said.

One of the first things that Santana did as an ambassador to the program was to put his support behind a poster contest for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The contest calls for kids to draw a poster that shows responsible sun exposure behavior.

The project is nationwide but the state prize for Minnesota is the chance to meet Santana and watch a Twins game in addition to a $250 savings bond and a $500 SHADE grant to the winner's school. The contest runs through the end of May and posters must be sent to the SHADE Foundation, 10510 North 92nd Street, Suite 100, Scottsdale, Ariz., 85258.

But Santana's dedication to the issue doesn't stop there. The Twins ace also announced that he will also host a bowling tournament on June 7 in Eden Prairie that will raise money for melanoma research with the goal of eradicating this deadly disease.

"Lynne was a happy woman, happy family and a great mom and now she's gone," Santana said. "You won't believe how quick everything happened. And I want to do whatever I can now to help."

The issue of sun awareness is something that Schilling has also tried to push to the entire league. Schilling said that his wife Shonda has had plenty of conversations with Commissioner Bud Selig on the topic and the results of their combined efforts have already helped raise attention to the problem.

"There have been other initiatives started, like ballpark screenings," Schilling said. "And that's what this is all about, creating awareness. The first screening we did in Arizona, four people were diagnosed with Stage 2 melanoma or worse. Four people that would have never been tested but they are alive today. That's the things that are going to come out of this. Someone in Minnesota who would have otherwise died of skin cancer won't because Johan and his wife decided to get involved in creating awareness on the issue."

Already, Schilling has noticed a change around the league in the way that players take to protecting themselves against the sun.

"It's one of the things that has dramatically changed in the last four years," Schilling said. "Everyone puts sun block on now before they take to the field. There's awareness here now that is significant and life changing.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.