"Children's Hospital holds a special place in my heart for myself and my wife and my son, Solomon, who is 10," Braggs said. "When I played here in Cincinnati, I would come visit the Children's Hospital and visit the kids here. I felt it was such an amazing thing that they were doing here. I would come and talk to these kids and try to give them something positive to think about. Never did I think that later on that was going to be reversed on me.
"When Solomon about six months old, we found out that he had retinal blastoma, which is a tumor on the eye. We were able to go to Children's Hospital, which had a ... world-renowned doctor for that particular disease. We had a great experience there, and Solomon ended up having the surgery to have his eye removed, and he has a prosthetic now.
"I always say he lost his eye but he gained his life. We just felt like it was such a blessing that we were able to have a facility like Children's Hospital to help us through that. It felt like they were giving back to me what I had given them before."
Braggs, along with wife Cindy and Solomon, was in attendance as Major League Baseball and the Reds unveiled completed renovations to the All-Star Pediatric Care Center (PPC) at the facility. The project resulted in significant improvements to the waiting room of the PPC, which offers care to thousands of children from low-income families. The renovation included innovative physical and virtual spaces designed to engage families with leading community organizations and also offer opportunities and resources to achieve their health goals.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Hall of Famer Joe Morgan; Reds president and CEO Bob Castellini; Reds COO Phil Castellini; MLB chief marketing officer Jacqueline Parkes; Children's Hospital CEO Michael Fisher; Vera Clemente, MLB goodwill ambassador and wife of late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente; Sharon Robinson, MLB educational programming consultant and daughter of Jackie Robinson; and Rey Velazquez, a local resident who gave a testimonial about the medical center.
At the end of the event, Fisher went up to Braggs and said, "I really appreciate you sharing that. It meant a lot."
Braggs, who grew up in Southern California, said Foster was his favorite player and that the Big Red Machine was the team he looked up to in his youth. He played from 1986 to 1992, and on June 9, 1990, was traded along with Billy Bates to Cincinnati for Ron Robinson and Bob Sebra.
"I was playing in Milwaukee, and we were in last place," he said. "I was platooning with Greg Vaughn, a young star who was coming up. I came to the ballpark one day, and Tom Trebelhorn, our manager at the time, said, 'You've been traded.' I was at first bummed out, because all the guys on that team, I'd come up with through the Minor Leagues. These were guys I knew and loved, so it was going to be a tough transition. I said, 'OK, what team have I been traded to?' And he said the Cincinnati Reds.
"George Foster was my favorite player, so I got to wear his jersey number. And on top of that, we win the World Series. So it was like the most amazing year ever."
Braggs married Cindy in 1992, his final season, and Solomon, their fourth child, came along in 2004.
"It's one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in my life, because Solomon was just six months old when it happened," Braggs said. "We really didn't know what to expect. We met a few families that had already gone through with it, and they talked to us, but ... when you go through adversity like that, you think it's the end of the world.
"I always felt that we were praying that God would save his eye. In saving his eye, he probably would have lost his life. So by losing his eye, he gained his life, and that's what I always tell people. Sometimes you pray to God for the thing you think you want, and God gives you the thing you need.
"It was a tough thing to go through, but when I look at him now and I see how well he's doing at school and how it's not really affecting him, I just look at the blessing of it all. It was just the beginning, and now he's starting his life fresh. If you didn't know, you wouldn't know.
He calls Solomon "my little genius, because he does so good in school. He's at the top of his class in every category. We're proud to have him as our son, and we're blessed to have his life because of the aid that we had with the Children's Hospital."
MLB and the Reds, in partnership with Starlight Children's Foundation, also donated the Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit, containing the latest gaming system, which rolls bedside to provide entertainment and therapeutic play for pediatric patients at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
"The partnership with Major League Baseball and the Cincinnati Reds, what it does is it give kids hope," Fisher said. "It gives them inspiration to say, 'I can do this, I can overcome obstacles, I know if I work hard and practice I can get there, if I take care of myself.' It sends a really powerful message."