Thomas, Nelson visit children's hospital in Memphis

Thomas, Nelson visit children's hospital in Memphis

Thomas, Nelson visit children's hospital in Memphis
MEMPHIS -- A young boy stood between former Major Leaguers Frank Thomas and Jeff Nelson on Thursday afternoon posing for a picture.

On the wall behind the three of them were pictures of the alphabet with words associated with each letter. 'A' was for 'always,' and 'B' was for 'ball.'

'C' was for 'cancer.'

The photo was snapped and the young boy, bald from his treatment but with big eyes and a bright smile, walked away with two autographed caps in hand. It was certainly a good day for the patient at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Thomas, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player, and Nelson, a four-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, visited the hospital Thursday afternoon. They were in town to broadcast the 2012 HotelPlanner.com National Youth Baseball Championships (NYBC), an event bringing 12 of the top 12-and-under youth teams from eight youth sports organizations in the country together that can be followed here.

Thursday was Nelson's fourth trip to St. Jude. Each time, he's been touched and reminded how lucky he is.

"For me, going there and having four healthy kids myself, it humbles you a bit," Nelson said. "It makes you remember to take nothing for granted."

Young children and their parents came up to the table where Nelson, Thomas and Eddie Einhorn -- the vice chairman and co-owner of the Chicago White Sox and NYBC founder -- signed autographed caps. Some kids walked to the table on their own. Some needed crutches, while others were pushed in wheelchairs.

No matter how they got to the table to meet the players, most of the children left with a big smile.

"Whenever athletes take time out of their busy schedules to visit St. Jude Children's hospital it not only raises awareness of our lifesaving mission, but also brings joy to our patients and their families," said Steele Ford, senior director of sports marketing for ALSAC/St. Jude. "We are extremely grateful for today's visit from baseball greats Jeff Nelson and Frank Thomas and our ongoing relationship with the National Youth Baseball Championships."

The children weren't the only ones touched by the interaction.

"Unbelievable watching their faces, so full of life," Thomas said. "Like the tour guide said, these kids are fighters."

For Thomas, Thursday's trip was especially emotional.

As a 10-year-old boy growing up in Georgia, he spent six months of his childhood going to and from St. Jude on the weekends as his 2 1/2-year-old sister eventually lost her battle with leukemia.

Thursday was his first trip back.

"It brought back, not good, but weird memories," Thomas said. "It was good for the soul."

For all involved.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.