Braves bring Christmas in July to local kids

Foltynewicz, Francoeur, Marksberry among players to visit children's hospital

Braves bring Christmas in July to local kids

ATLANTA -- Adolfo Julian doesn't follow baseball closely.

But when members of the Braves entered the 17-year-old's room at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on Friday morning, he still found himself awestruck.

"This morning was amazing," Julian said. "I just saw a baseball player come into my room, and then he surprised me with a bunch of gifts. We had a fun chit-chat, and he told me a little bit about himself and I told him a little bit about myself. Meeting the rest of the players is extremely cool."

Boys and girls throughout the hospital shared a similar experience, as Braves players, coaches and wives bounced from room to room delivering toys collected during the Braves Wives Toy Drive as a part of their annual Christmas in July visit.

Chase d'Arnaud, Mike Foltynewicz, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Marksberry, Anthony Recker and Brandon Snyder were the players who participated in the event. Pitching coach Roger McDowell, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and manager Brian Snitker joined them.

The chance to interact with the patients and their parents helped Snitker put his team's struggles this season into perspective.

"When you come here and you see what some of these young kids and their parents are going through, what we're doing isn't anything compared to that," Snitker said. "Hopefully they see the guys, and they'll be like, 'Oh, I want to watch the Braves tonight. Maybe I'll see that guy who came in my room.'

"We give them a tomahawk to help cheer us on, and I think it's a win-win for all concerned when we do this."

After the players, coaches and wives spent time with patients during room visits, everyone participated in a Christmas party in "The Zone," an interactive area for volunteers to meet with patients while playing video games, watching movies or doing arts and crafts.

d'Arnaud and Foltynewicz floated around the room, carrying selfie sticks and signing autographs, while Marksberry sat at a table and colored with a couple of patients.

Francoeur said he and his wife, Catie, have been involved with Children's Healthcare for about 12 years. Now the father of two kids himself, taking the time to participate in events like Friday's mean even more for the outfielder.

"Just interacting with the kids, seeing the smiles and seeing the things that excite them, that's the best," Francoeur said. "It's great [that] the organization comes up with and donates the toys and has us come out here. It's one of those things where I don't think you have to convince anybody to come.

"I think everybody feels very humble to be here."

And after visiting with patients on Friday, Francouer and the rest of the Braves might have a new fan in Julian.

"I think I'm going to follow baseball now," Julian said. "They convinced me."

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