Showing their heart, Orioles take on lead role for 30th annual Baltimore Heart Ball

A substantial amount of heart is a key ingredient in any baseball season. Teams have to have it to withstand the rigors of a six-month marathon. Fans have to have it - in abundance - to navigate the highs and lows of any campaign. Players need it, too, so they can ride the roller coaster of streaks and slumps but still prosper.

So heart is vitally important, on and off the field.

In fact, it was one of the key themes to the 1955 Broadway play "Damn Yankees," and gave the musical comedy a signature ditty penned by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. For those of you unfamiliar with the script, the play revolves around a devoted fan of the woeful Washington Senators of the 1950s, who says he would sell his soul for a home run hitter who could help the Senators beat the dynastic Yankees. Enter the devil, in the form of a salesman, who makes the wish come true - with some conditions. If you've never seen "Damn Yankees," you should at least check out the 1958 film version, with TV's favorite Martian, Ray Walston, taking a turn as the devil. Admit it: Any work that deals with disdain for the Bronx Bombers can't be all bad.

Orioles fans have long known their team has plenty of heart, and the Birds are again showing it - and their devotion to Baltimore - with news that they have partnered with the American Heart Association to serve as the event chair for the 30th annual Baltimore Heart Ball, scheduled for Feb. 1, 2014 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The Orioles are the first professional sports team to lead such an effort since the organization was founded in 1924.

The Orioles, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, have set a goal to raise $810,000 through the Baltimore Heart Ball, a figure that would set a record for fundraising. Proceeds from the event benefit breakthroughs in cardiovascular disease research, education programs and advocacy efforts. A considerable portion of the funds are also directed to local institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. In other words, a lot of the money raised here will stay here, benefiting Baltimoreans.

"We were honored to support the Heart Ball last year, and this year we wanted to take more of a leadership role to meet the mission of the AHA, a cause that is important to our players, our organization, and the community at large," said Orioles ownership representative Louis Angelos. "We believe that with the additional support from the entire Orioles family, we can add even more excitement to the campaign and help save more lives."

Angela Wheeler, senior director of Heart Ball Events for the American Heart Association, welcomed the Orioles' move to step to the plate.

"The Orioles' and the Angelos family's commitment is incredibly exciting for the AHA and for Baltimore. The team members are amazing athletes who practice our core mission and values of maintaining a proper diet and exercise, which makes them a perfect partner," she said.

The Heart Ball is an elegant black-tie celebration of life that attracts more than 500 of Baltimore's most prominent physicians, corporate, health care, philanthropy and community leaders to salute the American Heart Association's impact on the greater Maryland community. The event gathers like-minded individuals who care about the prevention and treatment of heart diseases and stroke.

The event features a cocktail hour, gourmet seated dinner, dessert, dancing, live and silent auctions, free valet parking, a special individual giving appeal and the presentation of the Watkins-Saunders Award. Named after Dr. Levi Watkins and Dr. Elijah Saunders, this esteemed award is presented to an individual who exemplifies excellence in diminishing healthcare disparities.

If dressing up for a night on the town isn't in your budget, don't fret - you can still assist the O's in their heart-friendly mission. The Orioles and American Heart Association are partnering on a ticket offer available exclusively at www.orioles.com/AHA that will allow fans to contribute to the cause as well as planning events to educate Baltimore City children on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Click here to take advantage of an exclusive 50 percent off ticket discount for all tickets for each game between now and Sept. 8 simply by donating $10 to the American Heart Association for each ticket purchased. The web page also contains additional details of the Orioles/AHA partnership, a calendar of AHA events and heart-healthy tips for fans.

Due to the lack of quality care, nearly 120,000 individuals die annually from heart disease, even in the presence of one's ability to pay for health care services. To diminish health care disparities means to diminish inequities in access to and the distribution of quality care to all Americans for the treatment and prevention of heart disease, one of the AHA's primary goals.

So feel free to participate in the special ticket offer and show your support of the Orioles' partnership with the American Heart Association. In other words, show you've got heart. In the meantime, here's "You Gotta Have Heart" from the film - miles and miles of heart.


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