A professional baseball player whose team gets clobbered, yet shows up the next morning at a children’s hospital — I mean really shows up, doesn’t just phone it in — is more than OK in my book.
Ten players from the Syracuse Chiefs, the minor league Class AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, did just that Tuesday. They brought a lot of smiles to pediatric patients at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.
The players stayed a good two hours, handing out souvenirs, talking with kids and their parents and signing autographs. Pitcher Matt Grace read a children’s book aloud (“Knuckleball Ned,” by Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey). None of the players seemed to be in any hurry to leave, and the adults in the room were just as happy as the kids about that.
Three players were particularly impressive.
Taylor Hill was the starting pitcher for the Chiefs Monday, and his night didn’t go well. Hill lasted just four-plus innings and gave up seven runs in a 9-3 loss. He’s still having a very good season, with 10 wins and 6 losses, and a solid Earned Run Average.
At the hospital, you’d never have guessed from Hill’s demeanor that he had taken a tough loss just 12 hours earlier. He was full of smiles and very “present” with the children. As he and his teammates prepared to leave, Hill was more than gracious to a hospital representative.
“Thanks for having us,” he said. “This was awesome.”
Mitch Lively, another pitcher, was acquired just a few weeks ago from the San Francisco Giants organization. Lively took a great deal of time with several patients, even sitting down next to one and taking turns drawing a Chiefs’ logo with him.
“Look how much better yours is than mine,” Lively told him.
Greg Dobbs, who went hitless in four at-bats the night before, took his time with the patients as well. During introductions at the beginning of the Chiefs’ visit, Dobbs said his seven-year-old daughter was starting second grade this week and it was difficult to be 3,000 miles away.
As a Class AAA minor league team, the Chiefs are one step away from the majors. Several Chiefs, including hospital visitors Hill, Dobbs, Aaron Barrett, Tyler Moore and Blake Treinen, have been in “the bigs” off and on and are trying to work their way back up. (Dobbs was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2008 World Series champions.)
The Nationals are in first place in the National League East, and the Chiefs are atop the International League’s North division. That kind of success will make for some interesting player decisions next month as the post-season arrives.
I’ve been a baseball fan all my life, and those close to me know I’m partial to the Boston Red Sox in the American League and the Washington Nationals in the National League. After the hospital visit by the Syracuse Chiefs, I’ll be rooting for these guys as well.