Orioles magic was definitely in the air June 17 and it had nothing to do with the rebuilding franchise earning their major league leading 20th (and counting) come-from-behind win as they took the 6-5 victory over the Houston Astros. The magic was actually displayed before the first pitch was even thrown.
This year, the Cool Kids Campaign and Major League Baseball Players Association partnered up to give pediatric oncology patients and their families a night of fun at Camden Yards and they call it Buses for Baseball. This is how the press release reads: “Buses for Baseball gives underprivileged kids throughout the United States and Canada the chance to attend a Major League game and meet the players. The Players Trust partners with local transit authorities and Major League teams, as well as charitable organizations in all Major League cities, to share the thrill of a big league game with kids…”
It was certainly a sight to see! All of the Cool Kids who participated had excitement written all over their faces while they were given gift bags filled with baseball cards, a hat, and a shirt among other things. Then one-by-one O’s players were escorted into the auxiliary clubhouse. Baltimore’s Matt Albers, Chad Bradford, Alex Cintron, Adam Jones, Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts were among the big-leaguers to bring smiles and laughs to the crowd.
Orioles second baseman Roberts takes these types of events very seriously. When he was just 5-years old he underwent heart surgery, he constantly made visits to his pediatrician as a kid. To this day Roberts holds a tremendous place in that heart for children, and especially those who are dealing with such difficult things.
“For us as players, we are so fortunate and so blessed to be able to do what we do on a daily basis. For me personally, I love being around kids, I love interacting with kids, I love seeing a smile on somebody’s face who may not have had one recently or they are going through a hard time or they may never meet a major league ball player, it’s just a great opportunity for us,” he said after hob-nobbing with the kids, signing and posing for pictures.
Most of the Cool Kids knew who Roberts was right off the bat. And their faces just lit up as the 5’9” talent made his way around the room. His take on that: “It’s a humbling experience anytime you are received like that by people, we just play a game for a living.” And he plays it pretty well. This gamer is the only Oriole who is among the top five vote-getters in the All-Star race at his position.
Still, he’s well versed in his passion for helping children. “But you also understand the impact you can have if you just take a few minutes of your time to interact with those around you. To be able to have that impact, its’ something that you have to take seriously,” Roberts said fervently.
Other players like Cintron, Albers, Bradford and Jones, all newbies to the club, maybe weren’t as recognizable but they seemed just as much into it as Roberts did. The Cool Kids were ecstatic to get up close and personal with these players, they laughed, they talked about preparing for the game and what it was like and, of course, the tooth fairy.
While the other players roamed the room from table to table, Jones positioned himself at one table. His gregarious personality eventually had the kids coming to him.
More than once he’d come across a particularly shy child and belt out, “Don’t be shy, I’m not going to bite you!” Or “I’m just a normal guy.”
Third baseman, Mora entered the room and bellowed “Sorry I’m late” and the room exploded in laughter. As he began signing you heard him say to a curious Cool Kid, “I’ve been getting ready for the game!”
Thank goodness for his preparation. Mora hit a double to drive in Jones and Roberts to take the lead once and for all. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that these players- the ultimate winners- were involved in lifting the Orioles to their victory when just hours before they were the ones that were having fun with the Cool Kids. Surely you can’t help but get toasty inside at how things turned out while wondering who helped to uplift who?
Photo credits to Rich Dennison. Thanks Rich.