Dirtbags, Supporters Play with Purpose to Strike Out Childhood Cancer

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The “What’s your purpose?” wall gave students a chance to state their purpose while raising awareness about childhood cancer. (Diana Martinez/With Purpose LB)

It was a much-cooler-than-advertised 63 degrees at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field Sunday afternoon. Nonetheless, the scene was that of smiles, laughter and joy as hundreds gathered to cheer on the Dirtbags and send a powerful message to strike out childhood cancer. Fans, families and cancer awareness advocates stood alongside With Purpose, which raises awareness and funds for treating childhood cancer.

The day featured a special Very Important Purpose (VIP) area, which brought entertainment for the community such as a caricature artist, face painter, games and food catered by Naples Rib Company.

This special viewing area was located alongside the third base line, next to the Long Beach State Dirtbags bullpen. Fans in the VIP area cheered on the team from a great vantage point, but ultimately the Dirtbags (1-2) dropped a 4-1 contest to the Saint Mary’s Gaels (2-1) of Moraga, California.

A crowd of 2,239 watched as Caleb Bradfield, a patient of the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center at Miller Children’s Hospital, threw out the first pitch of the contest and Miranda Harrison, a childhood cancer awareness advocate, sang the national anthem.

Upon entering the stadium, fans were greeted by a wall of people asking, “What’s your purpose?” Children and adults alike gathered to state their purpose with colorful chalk pens.

While walking around the grandstand to the VIP area, things at Blair Field seemed typical  of any other Dirtbags game, with a hyped-up crowd ready to cheer Long Beach through nine innings. But after arriving, you could tell this was a special day.

There were tables with umbrellas (one of which could not withstand the day’s powerful winds) for guests to sit. And while some attendees were unsure if they wanted to sit in the shade or sun, the message was clear: everybody wanted to make sure their voices were heard in this fight against childhood cancer.

Yes, the game mattered, but it was awesome to see the many kids in the VIP area running around and playing with one another, showing off what makes each of them special and unique, and reminding the adults of the importance of funding childhood cancer research. According to the Long Beach chapter of With Purpose, 1 in 5 children diagnosed with cancer will not survive. Yet only three new treatments for childhood cancer have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the past 30 years.    

Unfortunately, the Dirtbags fell for a second time. But they did get a home run in the second inning by senior shortstop Laine Huffman, which brought the VIP area and the people in the stands to their feet.

The first 40 kids to arrive at the game received With Purpose T-shirts, stating that every day more than 40 kids are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. At the conclusion of the game, the Dirtbags opened the field for the kids to run around the bases, following the path of the Dirtbags and Gaels who had just finished their baseball game.

Looking at each of the kids’ faces, one could see how heartbreaking and ugly cancer could be; kids should be able to fully enjoy their transition into teenage and adult life, laughing and playing along the way.

It was nice to see Bradfield sign the With Purpose wall and play like every other kid in the VIP area. He looked so excited to be a part of the event and it was great to see him viewed as a child, period. The label of “child with cancer” had disappeared.

Kudos to With Purpose and Cal State Long Beach’s 2018 Bateman Team for putting on a fantastic event. Be sure to check out their upcoming fundraisers and events throughout the month, listed on their Facebook page, “With Purpose Long Beach.”

Together the Long Beach community can stand up and strike out cancer!