|Sam Fuld and Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays Vist All Children's Hospital|
Joined by teammate and standout reliever Joel Peralta, the two Rays made their way along several floors to brighten the day for sick youngsters - one of several scheduled trips this season by the Rays in conjunction with Sagicor, a financial services company and corporate sponsor of the team.
The players, accompanied by team mascot Raymond, handed out signed player cards and pillow-like baseballs and made friendly conversation at each stop. That was an especially big hit with a 5-year-old girl named Madison. She played a lively game of catch with Fuld, her grandmother and Raymond, who pretended to be knocked to the ground by one of her throws.
"Can you guys stay for a few more minutes?" Madison implored as the visit began to wrap up.
"How about three more tosses?" Fuld said, smiling. "How about five?" Madison responded, promptly winging the ball back to the swift outfielder.
"You've got a good arm - you're a future ballplayer!" Fuld responded.
Children weren't the only ones excited by the presence of the players. A steady stream of parents and staff introduced themselves to the two popular Rays - with Fuld getting plenty of attention for belting his second homer of the season Monday night in a 4-1 win over Toronto, a shot that capped a trio of consecutive blasts that began with homers by James Loney and rookie Wil Meyers.
Fuld is a familiar presence at All Children's. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, he has made it a mission to help children and families dealing with the condition. In that role, he has served as the keynote speaker the past two years at the All Children's Diabetes Family Day. But he has also been a regular visitor on room tours like the one Tuesday.
"It's part of what we do here with the Rays," he said. "We try to do as much as we can here in the community. And it's for a great cause. It means a lot and it puts things in perspective. No matter how bad things might be going on the field, this really makes you aware of what matters. And it just means a lot to me to provide any kind of uplifting experience for the kids here."