SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The idea was awesome: Fly 18 children undergoing treatment for cancer at Children's Hospital Colorado down to Spring Training for a special weekend.
It was as expensive as it was awesome.
Dr. Bob Casey, who had organized similar trips when he worked at Boston Children's Hospital, along with the community and business leaders who compose the Corporate Leadership Council of Children's Hospital Colorado, knew raising funds would be a challenge. Little did they know that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki thought it was such a cool idea, he would make fundraising unnecessary.
"The Leadership Council was talking about doing this event, and I always knew in the back of my mind Troy would want to do this," said Jim Kellogg, the Rockies' vice president of community and retail operations and a member of he Leadership Council. "I sent him a text and said, 'Hey, do you want to take care of some kids from Children's Hospital and some doctors during Spring Training. And this is what it's going to cost you?'
"He never called. He just texted, 'Sure.' Isn't that amazing? Done."
The patients, along with their doctors, caregivers and some Children's Hospital staff members, were at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for Friday night's game against the Royals, which was called after four innings because of rain. However, the party will continue until Sunday morning.
Tulowitzki has lost several family members to cancer. Upon signing contracts that would keep him with the club through the year 2020, Tulowitzki began looking for ways to contribute to the treatments and efforts for cures.
For example, Tulowitzki has become known for quirky programs like growing a mullet -- the 1980s rock-star look of long hair in the back, short in the front -- as a well-publicized fundraiser for Children's Hospital. He also has raised money for the Children's Miracle Network and lent his efforts to the American Academy of Dermatology's Play Sun Smart program to raise awareness of skin cancer. There have been other similar efforts for which Tulowitzki didn't ask for publicity.
This one was hard to hide.
The children took off from Denver on Friday morning, just in time to beat a predicted snowstorm. It rained all day in Scottsdale, and the skies opened briefly for the Royals-Rockies game.
Then Tulowitzki made all the bundling up worthwhile by speaking with the children before the game.
The group will stay in Scottsdale until Sunday morning, which Casey said was a welcome diversion from a life of difficulty. Parents are not a part of the trip so they too can have a breather and the children can build special memories.
"It does give them literally a vacation from their treatment, from their hospitalizations, from their clinical appointments, from a lot of the procedures that they have," Casey said. "It allows them to be adolescents, which is not so easy at this time. They're so dependent on other people. But they can be semi-independent for the weekend. Also, it gives them a chance to be with other kids who have had similar experiences. They can have some solidarity and connection with other kids who have gone through similar challenges."
It also helps with treatment, Casey said.
"The side benefit is we get to see the kids away from the hospital," Casey said. "I've already had somebody on our staff say, 'I never knew that about this kid. I've never seen him so excited and so verbal.' We get to see more who they are, which helps us when we go back to the hospital to treat them better, attend to them better."
Casey was touched by the way this trip came about.
"It's pretty unusual -- we did not have that opportunity in Boston," Casey said. "That was not how the trip was funded. It was a hodgepodge of funding sources. It certainly was not what we had expected but it was amazing that it happened, and Jim Kellogg facilitated that. Troy stepped up, he and his wife."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less