By: John Sullivan (email@example.com)
With the team's first practice of the season just three days away, the Owls on the Rice baseball team spent Tuesday afternoon making some new friends with a visit to the Shriner's Hospital for Children just down the street from Reckling Park in the Houston Medical Center.
The Owls met and interacted with the young patients and their families as well as hospital care-givers and administrators. The players handed out and signed team posters, and then wrapped up the visit with a whiffle ball game with the kids in the facility's fantastic recovery and rec area. The team had the intention of maybe lifting the spirits of the young patients, but even Rice head coach Wayne Graham couldn't quite tell which group was enjoying the day more -- the Shriner's kids or the Rice kids he coaches.
"That's a tough call," coach Graham said, "you could tell both groups really enjoyed today. Coming here and seeing the great work this hospital does on behalf of these kids and families is wonderful. The children here are very brave and inspirational. If we brightened their day today that's just fine because I know they brightened ours."
The Rice visit was in conjunction with the Owls' return to playing at the annual College Classic downtown at Minute Maid Park. The Houston Shriner's Hospital is the title sponsor of this year's tournament on Feb. 26-28. One of the hospital care-givers said visits such as these have a significant role.
"It's great having the Rice players here today," one nurse said. "Being active is an important part of rehabilitation, and the kids really made an effort to come out of their rooms today because they heard the team was here and they didn't want to miss them. Children always look up to adults, but these baseball players are so athletic that I think the kids were kind of in awe."
For the patients who couldn't leave their rooms the Owls made it a point to go see them. Because the Shriner's Hospital treats children who come to Houston from all over the world, some of the young patients and their families did not speak English.
Speaking different languages was not an obstacle. Smiles need no translation.