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MLB visits hospital, dedicates new Fun Center

SAN View Full Game Coverage FRANCISCO -- Vida Blue was a World Series fixture during the 1970s, pitching in eight games during the 1972-74 title run by the Swingin' A's.

The 63-year-old southpaw is practically becoming a World Series regular these days as well. For the second time in three years, the six-time All-Star and 1971 American League MVP Award winner appeared at the University of California-San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital on Wednesday as part of a Major League Baseball delegation to visit kids undergoing treatment, and to help dedicate a new Starlight Fun Center.

Blue spoke at a ceremony in the Barry Bonds Family Foundation Playroom along with former Giants pitcher Bill Laskey and Giants mascot Lou Seal, touring a floor to bring goodies and good cheer to children. Others in attendance included MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell; UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital chief medical officer Josh Adler; hospital executive director Kim Scurr; and SU2C president and CEO Sung Poblete.

"I did this in 2010, so I'm so fortunate to be asked again by the Giants," Blue said. "We are so fortunate that the Giants are so community-oriented. They really stand up for the cause as far as supporting local charities and functions in the Bay Area.

"As a former player, I'm proud of the fact that Major League Baseball is stepping up to the plate to take part in this program. It makes us all look good as former players, because I know when I was playing, I probably took my health for granted. That's a crazy thing to do, but cancer affects a lot of us indirectly and directly on a day-to-day basis.

"Let's hope we can bring a smile to the kids' faces today and put a little light on their faces."

MLB dedicates a different community theme to each of the first four games of the World Series. The theme for Game 1 is fighting cancer, with special focus on Stand Up To Cancer. Game 2 on Thursday will be focused on Welcome Back Veterans. For Game 3, MLB will support youth, especially those in underserved communities, with programs including Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Breaking Barriers. And Game 4 will celebrate community service, with the focus on Habitat for Humanity.

"The children who we see at Children's Hospital have very significant health issues, and they come from all over Northern California, all over the country, for the specialized care that we provide," Scurr said. "Not only do we provide the specialized care, but many of our patients are also active researchers. Many of the treatments and cures for childhood illness have been developed at UCSF, and so people are coming here for that specific care that we provide.

"Unfortunately what that means is that they have literally been displaced from their homes and their support systems, and they may have a diagnosis with an uncertain outcome. So we really feel it is necessary to provide some type of normal activities to make the kids and their families feel special while they are here undergoing treatment."

The Starlight Fun Center is now a very traditional presentation item at MLB's jewel events, having the same impact everywhere this happens. This was done most recently at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City during All-Star Week in July. The Fun Center includes a Nintendo Wii gaming system, a TV and a DVD player. It can roll right up to the side of a young patient's bed or anywhere in a hospital setting.

Caregivers report that Fun Center use often results in a reduced need for pain medication.

"We're honored to be here. What a great hospital UCSF is, and we're honored to meet here and support this great effort," said Laskey, who won 13 games for the Giants in each of the 1982 and '83 seasons. "I'm sure all the kids are going to be happy, and we'll put a smile on their face. We hope that someday, we'll have a cure."

The playroom is named after Bonds because he donated the funds for a renovation in 2009. The playroom is a safe, stress-free environment where kids of all ages can play, relax and socialize knowing they won't face medical procedures.

"UCSF plays a unique role in the health care field, and in particular in the area of cancer care," Adler said. "We have a huge and very successful science component to UCSF Medical Center, both basic science, learning about molecules, all the way to clinical science, which is providing new treatments to real patients in real time. Linked to that we have a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center for children and adults, so that linkage has created the ideal environment for us to provide cutting-edge and compassionate care to people with cancer all over the Bay Area and the western United States."

"Major League Baseball is happy again to dedicate the first four games of the World Series to important community and charitable initiatives," Brasuell said. "We couldn't do the work we do with great organizations like Stand Up To Cancer without some really great partners, such as our partners here at UCSF, the Giants, Starlight and SU2C."