Ryan, Schumaker brighten young faces
Duo visits with cancer patients at Rainbows for Kids party
ST. LOUIS -- Erin Ott wishes that her son didn't get to do the cool things that he has done in his life. She just wishes that Brian was a normal, healthy boy who didn't have to spend hours upon hours at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center as he fights a long bout with cancer.
Unfortunately for the Ott Family, though, cancer treatments and surgeries have been a part of their life for way too long. Just when they think things with Brian are improving, they suffer a setback. The 10-year-old has had cancer of the brain and spinal cord since he was 3.
But on days like Wednesday morning, it's all a little easier to bear, if only for a while. That's because Brian got to hang out again with his favorite Cardinals player, Brendan Ryan, in the courtyard outside the Bob Costas Center at Cardinal Glennon.
Ryan and teammate Skip Schumaker took time out of their busy schedules on Wednesday to volunteer at a party organized by Rainbows for Kids, a charity which helps local cancer patients in the St. Louis area.
Wearing their home white Cardinals jerseys, Ryan and Schumaker met several dozen cancer patients and their families. They signed autographs, posed for pictures and even talked about their distaste for the rival Cubs -- who are in town for a three-game series that continued Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
"For me, it's a perk of the job to be able to put on a jersey and go make kids smile like that," Schumaker said. "To make their day, at least for a few minutes, better than it was five minutes before that, it was awesome. I had a great time.
"Just the smiles, that's what I took away from it. Those kids being happy and knowing that it took their mind off of things for that hour or however long it was, that's what I take the most, just being able to help clear their head for a little bit and put a smile on their face just by showing up."
While in Memphis, Tenn., for a serious surgery last year, the Ott family had the chance to meet Ryan while he was playing with the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate. Both sides knew that the other would be at Wednesday's party, setting up a special reunion between the two.
"He's had his hat sitting out, ready to go, for a couple of days now," said Erin Ott. "He was really excited about coming and seeing Brendan again, since he had met him before. He rescheduled his appointment so that he could come down today for the party. It was a special day."
The two embraced and talked for a few minutes before they took part in a game of catch. Ott wore a hat that Ryan had given to him after the game in Memphis last year, and his eyes lit up with excitement when he saw his hero walk through the door.
"I had met Brian before in Memphis, and it's been kind of an up-and-down thing with him," Ryan said. "It was very encouraging to see him today doing as well as he was because the last I had heard, he wasn't doing so well.
"We played catch today, and he was super pumped. He wore the hat I gave him, and it was just cool to see him again. I was gathering a very positive vibe from him. It was great to see, and I just hope that he's on his way to getting better."
Ryan jumped at the chance to see Ott again and even arranged to get him on the field for batting practice for Thursday's series finale against Chicago. He said he hoped to accommodate Brian and several other kids' wish that he hit a home run on Wednesday night, despite only having four career home runs, with none coming since Aug. 18, 2007.
"I never thought I would be in the big leagues 20 years ago, so this is all like a fairy tale," Ryan said. "I'm living a dream, so for me to be able to take some time out of my day and put some smiles on some kids' faces, it's the least I can do. It was great."
And about Brian's home run?
"That would be awesome, but you never know in baseball," Ryan said. "I may not get a pitch to hit today. I may get walked four times or I could strike out four times. But if it did happen, it would be really cool."
Regardless if Ryan goes deep, he knows that he will have a special fan rooting him on.
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.