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MLBPAA hosts golf tournament for cancer research

HUMBLE, Texas -- A large number of former Major League players converged at the Golf Club of Houston on Monday afternoon. These players, along with recreational golfers, participated in a fundraising tournament for Tony's Prostate Cancer Research, a not-for-profit organization founded by Tony Masraff, who was diagnosed 15 years ago.

The eighth annual golf tournament and auction was hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

Many of the former players, as well as the other golfers, have been affected by prostate cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in men. Former Astros first baseman/outfielder Bob Watson had prostate cancer, as did his father.

"I'm first-hand," said Watson. "This will be 20 years post-op. Every chance I get, I lend time and I'm trying to find a cure for prostate cancer. There's been a lot of strides made in detection and treatment. If we can get a handle on this thing we could really help a lot of men."

Added former pitcher Pat Zachry: "My father died of prostate cancer. [Finding a cure is] something that is dear to my heart, and I'm going to support [the golf tournament]."

Tony's Prostate Cancer Research is the brainchild of the 77-year-old Masraff, who was among the golfers who played in tournament, which occupied both courses at the Golf Club of Houston, site of the annual Shell Houston Open.

"It's Houston, Texas, where one person can start with an idea and create a huge following to make something happen that makes a difference in people's lives," said Arthur Baird, one of the golfers.

On Monday, a celebrity, the majority of which were former baseball players, were paired with a foursome.

John Jackson, who works for United Airlines, was paired with former second baseman Todd Haney. Jackson lost his father, George, this year to cancer.

"It's an excellent event," said Jackson. "It's certainly something that hits home to me. And the ability to reach out locally through the community, it's another great opportunity for me to support."

Among the former Major League players on hand included Kevin Bass, Dickie Thon, Bobby Tolan, Jose Cruz Jr., Mark Thurmond, Bob and Ken Aspromonte, Mike Jackson, Johnny Edwards, Phil Garner, Max Alvis and Gary Bell.

"[Prostate cancer] affects men, so every single one of these guys that played Major League Baseball is in that [age] range where you're likely to get prostate cancer," said former Astros pitcher and manager Larry Dierker. "This cure is getting close, and every time we have this tournament, we get a little closer."

WildHorse Resources sponsored four teams for the cause. Ken Ahrens and Neal Hamilton were among the players from the oil and gas company in Houston.

"It's great to be here with the Major League players," said Ahrens, a multi-sport athlete at Houston Spring Woods High School who played college baseball. "For those who have played ball over the years, to be out here with some of the legends is great."

Former Astros slugger Cliff Johnson lost his mother and older brother to cancer.

"Any time you're doing anything to prevent the spread of cancer or to help alleviate the disease, it's a wonderful gesture," said Johnson.

Enos Cabell, who played for five teams and currently works for the Astros as special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow, has missed this event only once in the eight years.

"A lot of players come," said Cabell. "It really helps getting to see them again, and then talking baseball, but then also we're raising a lot of money."

Since 2001, more than $7 million has been raised to support research for the cure of prostate cancer at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Donations are directed toward research to find a non-invasive cure for prostate cancer.

"We're at the point now where we have found a protein that does cure cancer," said Masraff. "We've come a long way."

Masraff is thankful to the players for lending their time to help his foundation.

"They're part of the legacy of what we're doing, where we're going," said Masraff.

For more information on Tony's Prostate Cancer Research, visit tpcr.org.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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