Boys in blue brighten children's day
Umpires hand out stuffed animals at St. Louis hospital
ST LOUIS -- The big question umpire Bruce Dreckman asked Friday morning had nothing to do with balls, strikes or a questionable call.
It was more like: "Do you want a kitty, puppy or a bear?"
Prior to Friday's Cardinals-Pirates game, Dreckman and fellow umpires Brian Knight and Gerry Davis dropped by the St. Louis Children's Hospital to visit patients and uplift their day with Build-A-Bear Workshop presents.
"It's one of those things where as umpires you go to different stadiums every three days, and you're basically changing your office," Dreckman said. "It's just like coming to these things. Every room is different, every kid is different, every personality is different.
"It's just very rewarding to be able to come in and boost the spirit of a little young girl or boy."
Making their rounds as a part of the program Blue for Kids, the umpires spent most of their time visiting young children with cancer or blood diseases.
For about two hours, the trio conversed with every child they met and handed out stuffed animals, which created an abundance of wide eyes and smiles.
The event provided several humorous exchanges, including one where Dreckman jokingly said, "We're the ones people yell at. See how mean we are?" as he handed a girl a stuffed animal.
"It's great to be able to come into these communities and give back a little bit, even if it's giving a kid a smile for an afternoon," Knight said.
For Corrie Harris, mother of 7-year-old patient Tyler, she could hardly hold back her smile as Dreckman told him what he would do for him. Stationed at first base for Friday night's game, Dreckman told Tyler Harris he would say hello for him to Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.
"It's wonderful," Harris said. "It helps to break up the monotony of the day."
Since 2006, Blue For Kids has visited 25 hospitals and has distributed more than 2,000 stuffed animals to children across the country. Blue for Kids will visit four more hospitals before the end of the 2008 season.
As it was Knight's second time participating in the program, the experiences he gained today will be more than just long-lasting.
"It makes me want to do it again -- do it in my hometown and get involved," Knight said.
Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.