ARLINGTON -- Emma Engelsmeier celebrated her second birthday on Sept. 29 and was diagnosed on the day of the World Series opener with a Stage 4 germ cell tumor.
On Sunday, the World Series came to see her.
The Rangers Captain mascot rolled a ball back and forth with her at the Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas. Former Rangers players and Major League Baseball officials came to dedicate a new Starlight Fun Center for thousands of kids treated there each year.
"This is our first week. We are very new to the cancer world," said Emma's mother, Jill. "To us, it's just great that Major League Baseball came out because it gives her an opportunity to smile and just be a 2-year-old. She gets to meet the horsey mascot and just get to have a nice experience when not everything we are going through here is as nice."
MLB dedicated Game 4 of the 107th Fall Classic to cancer research and especially to Stand Up To Cancer. Game 1 was dedicated to veterans military families, Game 2 to community service and Game 3 to youth. It is the third year in a row MLB has used its biggest stage to rally support for community initiatives.
Later at Rangers Ballpark, the focus was on SU2C and its ongoing efforts backed by MLB since the outset. There was to be a check presentation to SU2C for $4 million before the game by MasterCard to recognize their customers joining the fight by using a credit card, and participating in that ceremony are Sue Selig, wife of Commissioner Bud Selig, and Patty Goren, a breast cancer survivor and wife of FOX Sports chairman Ed Goren.
As with the All-Star Game last June in Phoenix, fans entering Rangers Ballpark will receive placards that read "I STAND FOR _________". They will be asked to fill in the name of someone dear whose life was touched by cancer, then after the bottom of the fifth inning, they will be asked to stand up and show their cards as the global FOX telecast comes out of an in-game commercial break for the sixth inning.
MLB has donated more than $30 million to SU2C since 2008 and uses this game as a platform to promote the fight against cancer and fund the research of "dream teams" scientists.
"We are proud to once again dedicate the 2011 Fall Classic to several extraordinary causes," Commissioner Selig said. "As a social institution with important social responsibilities, Major League Baseball is privileged to have the opportunity to raise awareness for these essential issues and highlight the efforts of the heroes throughout our society. We are thrilled to use the global reach of the World Series to support these outstanding initiatives."
All of this means the world to the Engelsmeier family from nearby Rockwall, Texas -- symbolic of the whole reason efforts continue to try to end cancer in our lifetime. Almost everyone is touched in some way by cancer, and sometimes you just have to watch one small girl rolling a ball back and forth with a Major League mascot and smiling while hooked up to an IV on wheels.
For the Engelsmeiers, including Emma's father, Dan, the morning event brought together families like theirs so they can share experiences and see positive spirits.
"The first couple of days we weren't quite ready for that," Jill Engelsmeier said. "It's nice to know that other people have gone through it and had success."
Jill is an administrator at Spanish House pre-school, where Emma goes. One day, the parents noticed a bump on her. Cancer presented itself that way, and the mother said "luckily" in a way that chokes you up because you wonder how the word "lucky" belongs anywhere here.
"We just thought she had fallen down and had a bump," Jill said. "At her two-year checkup, we asked the pediatrician, and he said, 'Let's get a second opinion.' So we went to the surgeon and they did an MRI and discovered that the bump was just a small portion of what we were dealing with.
"After the MRI decided it wasn't a bump, that it is a huge growth in her internal area, they sent us here to meet with the oncology team and did biopsy work. We're about halfway through her first week of chemo."
The tumor was diagnosed in her pelvic area and lungs.
"We're trying to find out as much as we can and how to keep life as normal as we can for her while she goes through this," Jill said. "This is the beginning of a long journey for us."
Making the journey with them on Saturday was a large group of visitors from the baseball world. There was Rangers senior vice president and catching legend Jim Sundberg; former Rangers Benji Gil, Mark McLemore and Pete O'Brien; SU2C co-founder Rusty Robertson; MLB senior vice president Jacqueline Parkes; and Jamila Mabruk, the North Texas community program coordinator for the Starlight Children's Foundation.
"Working at a Children's Hospital always helps you put things in perspective," said John O'Neill, CEO of the facility. "The Rangers' loss [Saturday] night was very disappointing, but the real important thing is obviously what's going on with the kids and their families here. Anything we can do to add a distraction and get their minds off what they are going through helps them mentally and physically."
This is the 50th Fun Center dedicated by MLB at events such as this, and this one will be positioned in the emergency room area. The one dedicated in Arlington last year during the World Series has spent the past year being wheeled around to young patients' bedsides.
"They're in the hospitals, they're lonely, they're in pain, they have a lot of fear, and this brings happiness to the kids," Mabruk said. "At Starlight we have a variety of different programs. We have inpatient, outpatient and online as well. The Fun Center is what we do for the kids who are in the hospital, and then for outpatients we throw events every month to help them deal with their illnesses and keep them smiling and happy."
Medical City Children's Hospital sees about 5,500 inpatient admissions a year, about 50,000 outpatient, and then 30,000 ER visits. It is part of a North Texas division network, and they see another 55,000 kids in their other emergency rooms around the Metroplex. They do about 4,500 operations on kids each year. This is reality and part of what Game 4 is about.
"In the children's oncology world, it is very well organized," O'Neill said. "Those results that they have been able to achieve prove that working together, sharing information and using the same treatment protocols around the world lead to better results. Twenty or 25 years ago, 80 percent of the kids with leukemia died. Now it is about 15 percent. It is tremendous progress. ... We are going to keep working until there is no cancer at all."
That is the mission of Stand Up To Cancer. That now-familiar SU2C/MLB public service announcement featuring many former Major Leaguers, including Tony Gwynn and Andy Pettitte, is scheduled to air three times during Sunday's telecast.
"We're here again to honor Major League Baseball's dedication to Stand Up To Cancer, and we're really here to also articulate the great strides that we've been able to make as an organization, because of the devotion of all 30 teams," Robertson said.
"So tonight we celebrate. We celebrate all the people who are survivors because of Stand Up To Cancer."
Robertson asks every fan to go to SU2C.org, not only to donate, but also to read and hear how donors' money is being utilized.
"Our goal is that everybody who watches this game tonight recognizes the importance of being a part of the movement of Stand Up To Cancer," Parkes said.
Jill Engelsmeier said her little girl will be watching.
"Now when she watches the World Series on TV," her mother said, "she has a frame of reference in her small little self, to know, 'Oh, I did this earlier this morning.'"