Rangers help bring the game to kids with cancer

Rangers help bring the game to kids with cancer

ARLINGTON -- The lobby of the Medical City Dallas Children's Hospital is usually a quiet place. An open area with tall glass windows, patients and families don't spend too much time there. It's especially quiet on weekends, as Friday is the day when patients are discharged, if possible.

The walls echoed with laughter and the sound of a plush baseball smacking against a Wiffle ball bat, as children played a sandlot-style game in that lobby on Saturday morning. Bags of candy lined a wall in the room and the Rangers' mascot, Rangers Captain, was lobbing underhand pitches to some of the hospital's patients.

Christopher Suprun, a flight paramedic in the Dallas area, put on the event to bring baseball to the hospital's patients with the help of the Rangers and Chick-fil-A. He was joined by his 12-year-old son Dodge and his travel team, the Texas Toros, which Christopher coaches.

Suprun was set on holding the event, the first of its kind at the hospital, on Father's Day weekend. It's one of the most important weekends for Major League Baseball's Stand Up To Cancer initiative.

Seeing Dodge and his other four children bring amusement to kids in need of it was the best Father's Day present Christopher could ask for.

"Just looking around and seeing the look on these kids' faces is what it's all about," said Suprun. "It's not much. It's just some tape for a diamond, a ball and a bat. But this kind of distraction goes a long way. I told my kids that I don't want any cologne or a bad tie. This was my gift."

The motivation behind the event started six years ago, when a player on the Toros named Ben was having trouble running to first base without falling. Not long after, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Fast-forward to mid-April and Christopher, Dodge and some other team members were driving home after a tough loss, with several players crying after striking out.

That struck a cord with Dodge. He had never seen Ben cry after a strikeout while he was able to play. He never saw Ben pout, in general, even though he was facing a frightening battle.

Dodge and Christopher wanted to make a difference for kids with cancer and provided it with the only way they knew how, baseball. Christopher said it took just a couple of calls with the hospital to put the event in place.

"These kids with cancer have something worth crying about every day, but I don't see them crying. They're out here playing," Dodge said, as he looked at kids running the bases.

One of those people was 20-year-old Sarena Saad. A softball player for 12 years, she had not been able to play since being diagnosed with bone cancer.

Nonetheless, she stepped up to the little plastic plate and attempted to hit the plush ball. Four swings later, she was not able to make contact.

After a five-minute break, she stepped back up to the plate and sent the ball flying 50 feet toward the lobby's front door.

That same never-quit attitude has helped her through this tough time.

"I don't have any other option," she said. "I hate failing at anything. If I know I have a chance at success, I'm going to go out and do whatever I need to do."

"That's the gift baseball gives us," Christopher said. "She swung and missed, but got right back up there and went for it again. Every kid should have that kind of attitude."

All told, only three patients at the hospital were able to participate in the game. Suprun said if it was even just one kid, he had accomplished his goal.

Suprun was a paramedic in New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Despite his heroic acts that day, he admires the bravery that kids with pediatric cancer show.

"These kids are the heroes, not me," he said. "These kids battle every day. Every day, they wake up and they go through challenges that none of us can even imagine."

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.