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Tino seeks to raise awareness
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06/18/2004  8:00 AM ET
Tino seeks to raise awareness
Rays' player rep influenced by coach, former manager
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Tampa Bay batting coach Lee Elia is a prostate cancer survior. (Steve Nesius/AP)
ST. PETERSBURG -- As a veteran Major Leaguer and former All-Star, Tino Martinez has learned what's important in life and baseball.

One of the things high on his list is helping out when he can. And that's why he is the Devil Rays' player representative for this year's prostate cancer awareness program.

"I was asked to be a part of it and, of course, will do anything I can to help further the cause,'' Martinez said. "Awareness about prostate cancer is very important. It's curable. And we have to continue to raise awareness about this. Do whatever we can and make sure everyone gets checked.''

Martinez is one of 30 MLB team representatives who has agreed to speak out about the importance of prostate cancer research and encourage fans to make a pledge. Some of the players appeared in public service announcements, while others have donated autographed merchandise and participated in stadium events to raise awareness about the fight.

Martinez needs to look no further than his own Rays clubhouse to see the difference that can be made. Rays hitting coach Lee Elia, whose father died of prostate cancer, is a survivor himself.

Martinez's former manager with the Yankees, Joe Torre, also is a survivor of prostate cancer.

"Joe and Lee are good friends,'' Martinez said. "I have to do what I can to help. If it prompts one or two people to get checked, then it has helped.''

Rays manager Lou Piniella also has been very involved with the cause for several years.

"I'm over 50 now, so I'm in that age category where I have to really watch this thing," Piniella said. "I enjoy life. And I want to be around for my wife, my children and my grandchildren. One of the main reasons I moved back to Florida was so I could be close to home."

Major League Baseball joined with the Prostate Cancer Foundation eight years ago to create the CaP CURE Home Run Challenge. This year, from June 11-20, culminating with Father's Day, baseball fans, players, team executives, coaches, trainers and umpires come together to raise money for each home run hit in select MLB games. Prostate Cancer Foundation funds are used for research to develop better treatment for prostate cancer and the search for a cure.

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

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