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In July of 2011, the Kansas City Royals were stumbling their way through yet another losing baseball season, their 26th in a row without a trip to the playoffs.

In July of 2011, our volunteer board for SIDS Resources Inc. gathered in Columbia, Missouri, for our annual face-to-face meeting. In case you haven’t heard of it, SIDS Resources is an organization dedicated to educating the public about ways to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and also supporting families that have lost a loved one to SIDS. It is a small nonprofit that serves Missouri, as well as parts of Kansas and Illinois. I started serving on the SIDS Resources board in 2007, and I became its chair in 2010 through 2011.

Strike Out SIDSBecause our board was split between people who lived in Kansas City and St. Louis, most of our interactions were conducted through monthly conference calls. Each summer, most of the board members would drive to the middle of the state and meet for a few hours in a hospital conference room in Columbia. It was a chance to brainstorm new ideas, get to know each other, and enjoy pizza from Shakespeare’s, Columbia’s best-known restaurant. During our brainstorm in 2011, one of our members had a very good idea. Our Kansas City office was lacking in an annual marque fundraising event. St. Louis already had a couple of big fundraisers, including one that involved the beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Why not do a summer event around baseball in Kansas City, the board member suggested. Perhaps it could be one of those events where kids and their families could run the bases, or do batting practice on a real baseball diamond?

That idea became “Strike Out SIDS” which debuted in 2012 at Community America Ballpark, home to the independent league Kansas City T-Bones. The event was fun – kids ran the bases, adults hit batting practice, we had hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and a couple of the usual bouncy houses – but the crowd was fairly modest. Only about 200 or so people attended. I left the SIDS Resources board after 2012, but the nonprofit moved forward with its plans to turn “Strike Out SIDS” into a big event. Last year produced a breakthrough as the big-league Kansas City Royals agreed to host “Strike Out SIDS at the K.” The “K,” in case you don’t know, is shorthand for Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play. This was a fantastic opportunity for SIDS Resources, and last year’s event turned out to be a big hit.

This year, it will be even bigger. The once-maligned Royals are in the hunt for the American League Central crown. Friday’s “Strike Out SIDS at the K” will be a crucial game against the division-leading Detroit Tigers. It will be a sellout, and perhaps the most important baseball game in Kansas City since the 1985 World Series.

A big baseball game in September represents the kind of exposure and awareness that SIDS Resources has always lacked in Kansas City. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third-leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, claiming 2,226 lives nationwide as recently as 2009. While there is no known “cure” for SIDS, organizations like SIDS Resources do important work teaching parents and day care providers how simple steps like putting an infant to sleep on his back on a firm mattress can sharply reduce the risks of SIDS. Despite all the access we have to information, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and mythology about what SIDS is, and how it can occur.

This afternoon, I picked up some “Strike Out SIDS” T-shirts for my wife, myself and our son. We’re looking forward to joining 45,000 other fans at the K tomorrow night and watching the Royals win.

We already know it will be a big victory for our friends at SIDS Resources.