Over the course of seven years and 81,240 miles, it has seen Matt LaPorta grow from a high school catcher, to an SEC Player of the Year to a first-round Draft pick to the key prospect in a high-profile trade. Now, it's up for grabs -- and for a good cause. LaPorta, the Indians' top prospect, is auctioning off his first -- and thus far only -- car on eBay. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of the 2002 black Ford Mustang will go toward multiple sclerosis research, because, in an unwelcome twist to his already dramatic year, LaPorta's mother, Cindy, was just recently diagnosed with MS.
"It's hard [to part with the car]," LaPorta said. "But there's a bigger picture for me, and it's just something I need to do." Cindy learned she has MS shortly after LaPorta returned from Beijing, where he played for the U.S. Olympic baseball team. Ever since his mother's diagnosis, LaPorta has tried to learn as much as he can about the illness. Part of that learning process was the discovery of ziMS, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's foundation that funds MS support and educational programs. A portion of the sale from the car auction will go toward ziMS. LaPorta said his mother's diagnosis has been tough on the family. But they want to make something positive out of it. "The only thing we can do," he said, "is help other people cope with it or figure out how to find a cure." Fans can help by bidding on what can only be described as a unique piece of memorabilia. The auction can be found by doing a search for "LaPorta car." When posted Thursday, the bidding began at $4,999.99. The auction will end on Oct. 12. The winning bidder on the vehicle will also receive a bat, ball and card signed by LaPorta, who was the Tribe's prized acquisition in the July trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. And while LaPorta hopes fans are swayed to help out a good cause, he also offered his best pitch for the car itself. "Honestly," he said, "it looks brand new, in my opinion. I keep pretty good care of it, and it runs great." LaPorta barely has time to even drive the car anymore. Between the trade, his appearance at the All-Star Futures Game, the death of his grandfather, the Olympics appearance and his upcoming stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, he has had a whirlwind 2008. "It definitely has been a strange year," he said. "A lot of ups and downs. But this whole year has been an important experience. I'm thankful for it." Next season promises to be just as eventful. LaPorta, who hit a combined .279 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs between Double-A Huntsville and Double-A Akron this season, can expect a promotion to Triple-A Columbus, and that first call to the big leagues is likely right around the corner. Of course, he cautions himself from thinking that far ahead. For now, he's firmly focused on what lies ahead in Venezuela, where he's expecting to play solely in the outfield. "You can't put a timetable on when you're going to be in the big leagues," he said. "You've got to work hard and produce. Because when you stop, somebody behind you is going to be doing better and get moved up." Before LaPorta heads off to what he hopes is a productive winter, he wants to unload the car his parents bought for him when he was 16. "I don't need the car right now," he said. "I need to part with it. It's hard, trust me. It took my parents a lot of sweat to get that. I'm thankful they were able to bless me with that."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.