Three participants in Sunday's XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game -- Justin Verlander, Justin Huber and Delmon Young -- came to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan-Diehl Club to give some assistance to a huge renovation project under way for the youth center.
"It's more important than playing in the game itself, actually," said Huber, a Kansas City Royals prospect. "It's the kids that make the game. They're the next generation of players and fans. They're the more important ones."
Huber, Verlander and Young were assisting an effort by the Frank Foundation and Magical Builders. Started by Christy and Jon Frank in response to their three daughters' request to give their gifts one holiday season to kids in need, what once began as a toy drive is now about creating a better life for children.
"We said, 'Let's start something our kids can learn from,'" said Christie, who worked with the Kansas City Royals for years. "We didn't think it would be this big this fast."
Magical Builders completed their first renovation project last spring, helping to spruce up the Family Living Center at Phoenix Children's Hospital in their hometown. The $1.5 million effort brought community and business leaders together with Major League Baseball to make a large positive impact for those using the facilities in Phoenix.
A few Major Leaguers came to grab a paint brush during Spring Training, and a relationship has been fostered. Now Magical Builders will be working on a renovation project in All-Star cities going forward, starting here in Detroit and moving on to Pittsburgh in 2006.
Having players participate not only shines a spotlight on an extremely worthy cause, but the upside in terms of kids seeing professional athletes getting their hands dirty is hard to put into words.
"It's really special to have players here," John Frank said. "They're young guys and solid role models. These kids are in dire need of good role models."
The trio of Futures players painted the walls of the center and helped put up stripping at the base of the walls. They also posed for countless pictures, signed autographs and acted as perfect ambassadors for the game.
"These are kids who want to be successful," said Young, the Devil Rays outfield prospect. "It's a good opportunity for us to come and tell them that if they keep working hard, good things can happen."
For Verlander, this visit was in some ways more meaningful. The pitcher made his Major League debut for the Tigers last week in Cleveland and he was thrilled about the idea of service in the community he hopes to call home soon.
"It means a lot to get up here and help," Verlander said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to do this for a long time to come. Hopefully, I'll get to Detroit soon and do more things like this."
The Boys & Girls Club center was getting a complete overhaul, from painting the walls to new ceiling tiles to a new air conditioning and heating system. Everything, from supplies to manpower, has been donated.
"Watching the kids and people coming together is really cool," John said. "When you're doing something like this, it is magical."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.