HOUSTON -- He reached the big leagues as a catcher, made the move to second base with great success and even played a couple of seasons in the outfield before returning to second base at the end of his tremendous 20-year career with the Astros.
But on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, Astros legend Craig Biggio was a pitcher, throwing a few hundred pitches underhanded to a group of kids who have been battling cancer.
Biggio and his wife, Patty, hosted dozens of kids at their annual Sunshine Kids party on the ballpark's playing surface. Children of all sizes 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 23 years.
"It's about the kids," Biggio said. "It's about the relationships you have, and this event is one of the special ones the kids look forward to. For the kids to be able to come here, run around and have some fun and let their hair down and smile and laugh, that's what it's all about. They're my family, and I'm their family."
While the kids lined up to take their hacks against Biggio, it was hard to tell who was enjoying it more. Biggio spent most of the morning smiling from ear to ear while throwing the pitches and took time to talk and encourage each kid who stepped to the plate with a plastic bat.
"I have a lot of fun with this," he said. "When you go back to thinking about being a child and getting an opportunity to run around on this field and hit in the batter's box and run the bases, you also think about some of the battles they have to go through every day. That's what it's all about. I get a lot out of this, yes I do."
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 wanted to simply provide a trouble-free morning of fun.
"Being a parent and having kids of your own, you wake up and count your blessings for today because [you] don't know what tomorrow is going to bring," Biggio said. "These kids, they have some amazing stories and you kind of go, 'Wow,' and there's ones we haven't had a good ending to. That's what tugs at your heart. For these kids to come out and have fun, today is a great day."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.