story by Steve McCarthy
photos by Stacy Wardwell
August 8, 2010
When Arizona State University rising sophomore pitcher Brady Rodgers was a senior at Lamar Consolidated High school in Rosenberg, Texas, his mother, Judy, volunteered him without his knowing to join her on Sundays spending time with patients of the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. With reluctance, Rodgers agreed to go.
“At first I didn’t want to do it, but when I went the first day it was a great experience and I’m glad she volunteered me,” Rodgers said before a recent game of the Cotuit Kettleers, a franchise of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Rodgers has the potential for a bright future. He turned down a 39th round selection by the Milwaukee Brewers after his final high school season to attend college, where he was the Sun Devils’ earned run average leader among starters this spring. He followed that with a pair of 10 strikeout starts for the Kettleers this summer. But Rodgers realizes how unpredictable that future is and the importance of giving something back.
“It helps you become more mature, because you actually see what these kids go through every day,” Rodgers said. “You just see these kids fight for their lives and it gets you in the heart. You appreciate what they’re doing.”
Rodgers spent his first college summer hurling through a 44-game schedule, but his volunteerism has not faded. On July 28, Rodgers and seven Kettleers teammates, along with assistant coach Scott Gurss, made a detour on their way to the Cape League All-Star Game at Fenway Park to visit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and brighten the day of children and adult patients.
Cotuit Athletic Association housing director Lisa Mathieu has coordinated the team’s trip in recent years along with Dana Farber oncology nurse Margaret Hill. Four Kettleers visited the hospital in 2008, but the trip did not take place last year. According to an e-mail from Mathieu, the team’s interest in participating in the visit this year was so strong that accommodations had to be made in the travel arrangements.
Rodgers’ Sun Devils teammate and classmate Deven Marrero, Austin Dicharry (Texas), John Hinson (Clemson), James Foster (Wofford), Brooks Pinckard (Baylor), Kyle McMillen (Kent State), and Michael Faulkner (Arkansas St.) all signed baseball cards, colored pictures, talked baseball and reflected on life. According to Rodgers, the group spent about an hour with the children before visiting adults.
“It was a great time, just to see the smiles on their faces,” Rodgers said. “Some of them don’t get many visitors.”
Faulkner said it was his first hospital visit and plans to propose the idea to his college coach as part of the team’s involvement in community service. The outfielder has participated in bell ringing fundraisers outside of Wal-Mart.
“It was kind of a life-changing moment, because it just teaches us not to take anything for granted,” Faulkner said. “There was one patient (name removed)” this girl that was six years old. She seemed perfectly normal, but there really was something wrong with her. That made me think that although we all look normal, nobody’s perfect.”
The Jimmy Fund was founded in 1948 in support of patients of the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, later renamed for Dr. Sidney Farber. A 12 year-old patient referred to as “Jimmy” was visited by Boston Braves players at his hospital bedside during a national radio program, and according to the Jimmy Fund’s web site, $200,000 dollars was raised in its inaugural year. The Jimmy Fund and the Boston Red Sox have been connected ever since.