10/30/10 10:26 PM EST
Our first World Series winners, and they're cute!
Halloween costume contest caps day of events devoted to kids
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
This was about Giants at Rangers, and it also was about the visit to Medical City Children's Hospital, the "Wanna Play?" clinic for 600 area youngsters, the donation of baseball equipment to Ugandan Little Leaguers, the earliest start time in 23 years, Justin Bieber's worldwide song premiere on FOX pregame and the announcement of three winners in the World Series of Halloween contest.
Major League Baseball is using Games 1 through 4 of this 106th Fall Classic to highlight several cause-based programs, and Saturday's theme was Youth Development. Game 1 was dedicated to Stand Up To Cancer, Game 2 was to Community Service and the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Sunday's Game 4 will be dedicated to Welcome Back Veterans. This one was for the kids.
"Anything we can do to help kids," Rangers legend and club executive Jim Sundberg said after meeting with youngsters and families at the children's hospital during the morning. "Major League Baseball's trademark and just its brand is huge in our country and around the world, so anytime a team can partner with Major League Baseball it is just a real benefit."
"The broad appeal of the World Series gives us an incredible opportunity to raise awareness for programs that make a difference in the lives of others," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "This is a continuation of Major League Baseball's efforts to promote these important and wide-ranging issues that impact millions of our fans across the country and around the world."
Highlights from Saturday's Kids Day:
World Series of Costumes: The three winners of the contest at MLB.com/Halloween were announced during the third inning of Game 3 on FOX, with six additional runners-up featured as well on MLB.com. MLB Network will re-air the three winning photos Sunday during its pregame Halloween show. Selected by online fan voting as well as by celebrity judges Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest of FOX's "American Idol" were Khalil from Kentucky (Yankees), Lydia from Wisconsin (Brewers) and Raegan from Texas (Rangers).
Fans uploaded pictures of their children 12-and-under, and MLB.com visitors voted en masse until 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday. It was all about the kids.
Also on Saturday, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) presented by KPMG, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and MLB conducted an impressive "Wanna Play?" clinic, hosting more than 500 local children from those two programs. It was at the Rangers' adjacent youth baseball facility, and instructors included Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson; former Rangers Jeff Russell, Pete O'Brien and Steve Buechele; and MLB Network analyst and former All-Star Sean Casey.
"Obviously the future of baseball is the youth, and specifically we knew we needed to make more efforts to reach out to under-served kids, under-served communities, to get them excited about the game, to become fans of the games," said David James, director of MLB's RBI program, as he watched youngsters work on skills in various areas. "We're big believers that if you provide these kids these types of opportunities like today, the other visits, they become lifelong fans of the game. They also recognize the impact that baseball has on the social fabric on each of these communities. The phrase is: Beyond Baseball."
One of the unquestioned highlights was watching the O-Dog have a sit-down for more than 20 minutes with at least 100 kids, including a question-and-answer session and trivia. Someday they'll see him on TV and say, "I got to talk with him." Here is how Hudson, as part of his "Around the Mound Tour," greeted them:
"How many of you kids have dreams of making the Major League someday? How about being an NFL player? How about being an NBA player? How many doctors we got out there? How many lawyers we got? So everybody wants to play professional sports. I'm gonna tell it like I tell my kids: I can't hear this. I'm gonna tell you: You know how hard it is to make it to the Major Leagues, how hard it is to make it to the NFL, how hard it is to make the NBA? It's a very thin line. I've played against a lot of great ballplayers through the Minor Leagues, and you might get up to the big leagues and a month later be released like nobody wants you, and you think: 'What don't scouts see in this guy?' They see differently. That's when you go out and you work hard, play hard, respect the game, respect your teammates, respect your coaches.
"Right now, you're in school. Respect your teachers, respect your parents, respect your elders, respect your significant others taking care of you. A simple 'Yes, ma'am,' 'No, sir,' 'Thank you,' 'Please' -- how much does it cost to say that?"
He thought he heard someone in the crowd say how much it costs.
"No, it doesn't cost anything to say 'Thank you.' That means you've gotta make good grades in school."
"Joseph, what do you want to ask?"
"Are you playing in the World Series?"
"No, man, the Yankees swept us in three games. We were in the playoffs and out that quick. But it's all good."
RBI has produced Major Leaguers such as CC Sabathia of the Yankees, Carl Crawford of the Rays and James Loney of the Dodgers, and 13 of its alumni were selected in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
"We have well over 100 kids across the country who have received college scholarships, and we're actually more excited about that than the number of kids who make it into the pros -- that we are using RBI as a tool to get these kids into college," James said. "We are really pleased with the growth of RBI. This year in particular, with the launch of the Junior RBI playing divisions, ages 5 through 12, has really had a positive impact on the program. We're really excited to see what happens over the next couple of years as those 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds become 13, 14 and 15, that we want to use Junior RBI as a feeder program to keep more kids involved when they get to 13, to keep baseball and softball as a viable option instead of just whittling it down to one sport and stepping away from baseball and softball."
Starlight Fun Center:
One night last May, Lindsay Markert was giving her 2-year-old son, Jackson, a bath, and she felt a lump in his right groin area. She and husband Ryan got it checked out. The pediatrician thought it was lymph nodes, gave them an antibiotic, said in two weeks it should go away. Two weeks went by, but it didn't go away. They got an ultrasound on it. The ultrasound said it was lymph nodes, as well. The pediatrician wasn't buying it. He said if it's lymph nodes, it should have been gone by then, or Jackson would be sick by then from something else. It was initially diagnosed as angio-pericytoma, then as an "undefined cancer."
"It brought me to my knees," Ryan told MLB.com. "He's my first son. I didn't know what to think, what was up or down. But the doctors here, they're parents, too, they make you feel like you're not just another patient. It's an awesome staff."
They were sent to Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas, the tumor was removed, Jackson is done with radiation, has two more rounds of chemotherapy, and hopefully after that just scans. On Saturday morning, all three of them were in the big room as MLB, the Rangers and Starlight Children's Foundation presented the facility with a new Starlight Fun Center. It is a mobile video-gaming unit that allows the staff to roll it into any room, something to brighten spirits for patients and families at any time. Part of the youth development theme is also helping make kids like Jackson smile and helping Stand Up To Cancer find a cure.
"It's awesome," Ryan said. "It takes away from some of the doom and gloom of being in the hospital, the doctors and nurses constantly coming in and checking in and him, being poked and prodded, it's nice that someone is bringing something in that isn't a procedure or a shot."
Mark Ford, community development director for Starlight Children's Foundation in Dallas, said: "For more than 25 years, Starlight Children's Foundation has worked to help seriously ill children and their families to cope with their painful situations through entertainment, education and family events. I think we all know that a young patient faces a lot of challenges while in a hospital. Sometimes it can be scary and lonely. The hours seem to pass by very slowly. The same is true for the parents and the rest of the family members. That's why we created the Starlight Fun Centers, to make the hospital experience a little more pleasant. These can be rolled anywhere in the hospital where they are needed, and the staff use them where they are needed -- bedside, treatment rooms, to help brighten the day of a seriously ill child. Each year our programs touch the lives of more than 3 million children and their families, and we couldn't do it without the generosity of donors like Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers. Since our partnership with MLB started in 2005, we've placed about 50 Fun Centers in hospitals across America."
Sundberg added: "The Rangers are very active in the community and we're just glad to be a part of the Medical City Children's Hospital and the Starlight Fun Center," Sundberg said. "Anything we can do to help kids who are in need, it's kind of what the Texas Rangers stand for, and our foundation. We love to participate in events where we can help children and maybe make the experience of having a loved one being treated a little easier."
Pitch In For Baseball
MLB conducted an equipment drive during Game 3, and made a donation during the "Wanna Play?" event. Some of the gloves, bats and balls will be earmarked for the East African nation, where it will be used by Uganda Little League Baseball, an arrangement brokered by Pitch in for Baseball. There, it will help a group of children who know little about the game but know plenty about hardship.