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Umpires spread cheer at hospital

Umpires spread cheer at hospital

NEW YORK -- Fans don't typically cheer Ted Barrett. They don't acknowledge a job well done. They don't, in fact, pay him any particular heed, unless it's to spit some sideways remark in his general direction.

Fans, it seems, don't particularly like Barrett -- or any umpire, for that matter. When he helps their team, he's invisible, and when he doesn't, he's anything but.

On Wednesday, he was anything but. And this time, it was for all the right reasons.

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Barrett and his umpiring crew paid a visit to The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, handing out Build-A-Bear workshop stuffed animals to young patients and stopping to chat a bit about baseball, and a bit about life.

"Most umpires have a heart of gold, and people don't see that," Barrett said. "If we can use the position we're in to maybe help a kid out, then it's worth it."

Barrett and his crew for this week's Yankees-Red Sox series -- Mark Carlson, Angel Hernandez and Derryl Cousins -- helped out plenty of kids, distributing stuffed animals to the children and even providing gifts for their families. The kids were given a choice of a stuffed bear, dog or cat, and then their choice of outfit -- anything from a Yankees jersey to pirate garb to a hula skirt.

Then the umpires lingered, chatting with the children about their favorite topics. For most of them, conveniently, that meant baseball.

"I have two daughters myself, and sometimes it's hard to think about how fortunate I am," Carlson said. "I have two healthy daughters, and they're not going through the things that these kids are. It amazes me how strong these kids are."

The visit was part of BLUE for Kids, a non-profit charity founded by umpires Marvin Hudson and Mike DiMuro last year. Since that time, BLUE has seen 18 different umpires visit a total of 16 hospitals, including nine this year.

BLUE also operates a program designed to give baseball tickets to children in foster homes and mentoring programs, and works to support the efforts of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs across America.

Barrett jokes that the umpires get just as much out of it as the children -- and that just might be true. After a hospital visit in Chicago earlier this month, a local television news outlet interviewed one of the patients gushing that the visit was the greatest day of his life.

"I started thinking," Barrett said, "that if he's had a pretty sick life, then it might be. So I was pretty honored about that."

And he's not alone. Not even close.

"It means a great deal to be able to go in and spend time with these kids and their families," Carlson said. "It's heartwarming, and to be able to do good for the kids and their families is just an honor."

There's that word again -- honor. These umpires all feel it, and for good reason. There's a certain pride that comes with helping children, especially when there are precious few other places where they can turn. And the umps have since learned that spending even just a few moments can change a child's life.

For them, it's a couple of minutes. For the kids, it's an immeasurable amount more.

And it's one place where the umpires won't face any wrath from their fans.

"Maybe," Barrett laughed, "they just haven't learned to yell at us, yet."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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