Story By John S. Condakes
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008
BOSTON — Located not too far from one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds in the heart of Boston, stands a building athletes have flocked to for decades. The Jimmy Fund Clinic and Dana Farber Cancer Institute have welcomed these well-known visitors as they spread smiles from floor to floor. On Wednesday July 30th, Cotuit Kettleers infielders Robbie Shields, Michael Gilmartin, Matt Holliman and pitcher Drew Storen, were welcomed to carry on a tradition started by Red Sox Hall-of-Fame slugger Ted Williams and saw for themselves what these incredible people go through.
The players’ first stop was a trip upstairs to the Jimmy Fund Clinic to spend time with some youngsters who are fighting cancer. There was a very somber feeling in the air as they strolled down a hallway lined with bright paintings of scenes from Disney movies. The foursome was greeted by Rosemary Lonborg,wife of former Red Sox pitcher and 1967 Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg. Rosemary Lonborg got involved with the clinic when Jim was pitching for Boston and since they stayed in town, she was able to remain involved.
“It’s amazing to see how much joy it brings the kids,” said Lonborg. “Some of the current Red Sox players come in a few times a year. They’ve even brought in the World Series trophy,” she said.
The players took time to enjoy the kids’ company as they chatted, played and did some arts and crafts. Storen jumped at the opportunity to finger paint with one of the younger patients while a boy wowed the players with his truck drawing abilities. He even drew them a picture and autographed it as a thank you to the Kettleers.
“Walking in there and seeing those kids with cancer was very humbling,” said Shields. “Not many people realize what kids like that go through and I would go again in a heartbeat.”
For other patients, something as trivial as having hair has become somewhat of a blessing. Five-year-old Christina Johnson was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had it removed but her communication skills are limited. Prior to the operation she had straight blonde hair and after months of treatment, she now sports brown curls. “Her hair color doesn’t matter,” said her mother. “We’re just happy to have it.”
After signing some programs and baseballs for the children in the Jimmy Fund Clinic, the players took the elevator up to the tenth floor to socialize with some older patients.Seated in a room with a birds-eye view of downtown Boston was Sergeant Scott Miller who had been stationed in Iraq with the Military Police. After originally thinking that he had a blood clot, Miller was flown to a military hospital in Washington, D.C. to have some tests done. It was there he learned that he had cancer so he shipped up to Dana Farber for treatment. The players thanked Sgt. Miller for his service and gave him a signed baseball and a team yearbook along with well wishes for a speedy recovery.
“It not only touched my heart but it really opened my eyes about how precious life is,” said Holliman.”
Just down the hall, the players crossed paths with a patient named Adrian. All four players were deeply touched by him because of his positive outlook on life after having undergone a tracheotomy due to a battle with throat cancer. They spoke with Adrian numerous times and even invited him down to Cotuit to attend a game.
“Adrian was very inspiring to me,” said Storen. “He was told that he only had six months to live two and a half years ago. He wasn’t in good shape but he was still happy. It makes you realize that there are much bigger problems in life than you think.”
But it’s not only the players who are involved. Lisa Mathieu, a resident of Cotuit who drove the players to Boston and has hosted Kettleers for the summer in her home wore the names and photos of patients visited by the four Cotuit players as she biked in the Pan-Mass Challenge on August 2nd and 3rd. She hopes that the visiting program will continue to grow and that the Kettleers can make multiple visits during the summer in upcoming years.
The four Kettleers enjoyed their visits with the patients and never refrained from introducing themselves. “It was quite remarkable,” said Mathieu. “One player would start chatting with someone and they would all follow. We almost had trouble getting them to move from person to person,” she joked.
Although Ted Williams is (mostly) gone, his spirit lives on through the efforts of these young baseball players. These four talented and caring young men hopefully will have the opportunity to carry on their mission of spreading joy to those in need as they pursue their ultimate goal of becoming major league ball players.
“Just to see those people there was inspiring,” said Gilmartin. “They’re just regular people who got a bad break and hopefully some day we’ll find a cure for them.”