The BLUE For Kids program brings a crew of MLB umpires to the bedsides of children with life-threatening illnesses. Umpires make the visits for the sole purpose of putting a smile on the face of a child. The Boston visit was the 30th event at a children's hospital over the last three years and the first of 12 events that the men in blue have lined up for the 2009 baseball season.
"We feel fortunate to be a part of the Major League Baseball family both on and off the field," said crew chief Tim Tschida. "UMPS CARE Charities provides a structured approach for the Major League umpires to participate in community outreach activities all across the country. The hospital visits are one of our favorite things to do, and what better place to start the season off then here at Children's Hospital Boston."
Today's event led off with Tschida and fellow umpire Bob Davidson's appearance on the "Midweek Morning Show," the hospital's internal TV show broadcast to all patient rooms. The umpires answered a host of questions from children attending the live show as well as from children unable to leave their beds.
When asked how he called a strike, Davidson took the microphone and stood up on stage before the crowd of more than 40 children and parents. Like he's done thousands of times throughout his career, he crouched and yelled, "Strike One" as he raised his right fist in the air.
Davidson then encouraged a young boy named Ethan to step up on stage and give his best strike call. Following the umpire's lead, the youngster turned to face the crowd, crouched down slightly, and then took the microphone from Davidson. "Strike One!" Ethan yelled to the thunderous applause of everyone in the crowd. It was as though Ethan had made the call many times before, just like Davidson.
After the show, umpires split up into two groups with Tschida and Mark Carlson remaining near the stage while Davidson and Jeff Nelson stepped away to visit patients unable to leave their rooms. Children were invited to choose between a pre-stuffed teddy bear, puppy dog, or Wally the Green Monster Build-A-Bear.
Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, also attended the event with the umpires. Wally spent time posing for photos and signing autographs to the delight of so many kids.
During the MLB season, umpires also will make visits in Cincinnati (5/7 at Cincinnati Children's Hospital), Tampa (5/19 at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital), Philadelphia (5/26 at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), Cleveland (5/27 at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital), Washington (6/3 at Children's National Medical Center), Baltimore (6/10 at Johns Hopkins Children's Center), Oakland (6/23 at Oakland Children's Hospital), Los Angeles (7/2 at Children's Hospital of Orange County), Chicago (8/12 at Comer Children's Hospital), St. Louis (9/2 at St. Louis Children's Hospital) and Milwaukee (9/8 at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee).
The BLUE for Kids program is sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gerry Davis Sports and The World Umpires Association with media support from MLB.com.
To see photos, videos, and learn more about UMPS CARE Charities, visit www.UmpsCare.com.
Samuel Dearth is the executive director of UMPS CARE Charities. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.