HOUSTON -- The roof at Minute Maid Park was partially open Tuesday morning, protecting the kids from the sun but not from the overwhelming humidity that offered no reminder the calendar had flipped to October. That still wasn't enough to stop the fun.
Astros legend Craig Biggio and his wife, Patty, played host to dozens of kids at their annual Sunshine Kids party on the ballpark's playing surface. Children of all ages got the chance to bat against Biggio and run the bases and outfield before being treated to lunch, an autograph session and an Astros goodie bag.
Biggio is the national spokesman for the non-profit Sunshine Kids, an organization that assists kids with cancer and their families. He wore the organization's sunshine pin on his cap during Spring Training games and regular season batting practice throughout his career, and has been treating the kids to a party for 24 years.
"Today's great," Biggio said. "It's a lot of fun for these kids to come out here and get on a big league baseball field and forget about some of the worries they have going on in their lives and just go out here and have some fun. That's what it's all about."
Biggio threw batting practice to waves of kids swinging plastic bats, some swinging from their heels, some not knowing which side of the plate to stand on. It didn't matter to Biggio, who took time with each kid to make sure they had a good time.
"This is something we've been doing over 20-something years now and it's been a lot of fun," he said. "It started off in some high school field somewhere, then we brought it in the Astrodome and we brought it in here to Minute Maid now. It's been a lot of fun. I love these kids. I don't leave home without my [Sunshine Kids] bracelets, and they've been family to me for a long time."
Several of the kids have been coming to the party for years, and Biggio has built some special relationships along the way. He's come to learn about their struggles and hardships and is glad he's able to provide them with a morning of fun.
"There's quite a few kids that come back and continue to come back," he said. "This is one of the events, that when they sign up for [Sunshine Kids], this is one of the first ones. We have the Christmas party at the Children's Museum, which has been a huge success also. But this is one of the favorite ones. You're on a big league baseball field and it doesn't get much better than this."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.