SAN DIEGO -- Stacey Gregg immediately recognized the slight midwestern accent above all the loud chatter in the ballroom at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in the moments before the start of Breakfast with B.A.T., the annual reception for MLB's Baseball Assistance Team.
It was the same soothing voice that comforted her for two years, when she had questions about making her car payment and paying the mortgage and all of those medical bills after her cancer diagnosis and treatment. The sound was unforgettable. Sweet but strong, it had consoled her for hours during their phone calls.
The voice belonged to Katie Lentz, administrator for B.A.T., and on Tuesday morning, Gregg -- who worked for the Padres in the guest experience department from 2003-11 -- heard it again, and at last, she put a face to it. They embraced without saying a word.
"This moment was something I have been anticipating for a long time," said Lentz, who has worked with B.A.T. for three years. "I have been talking to Stacey through her various trials and to see her healthy [and] financially stable means the world. It shows me that all of the work our team has done has been worth it and that she is a success story. We are so grateful she has chosen to share it."
Created in 1986 by a group of former Major Leaguers, B.A.T. was formed to help members of the baseball family in need of assistance. Throughout the years, the organization has awarded more than 5,000 grants and more than $47 million "to restore health, pride and dignity to members of the baseball family." In 2019 alone, B.A.T. has helped more than 600 members of the baseball family with more than $5 million of assistance. Gregg is proud to be a member of the club.
"Gratitude," Gregg said. "Just gratitude. That's why I'm crying. I'm so grateful."
The organization helped Gregg with financial assistance after doctors found a large cancerous tumor in her abdomen and removed it. It all started when Gregg called B.A.T. for help and Lentz answered the phone. Gregg eventually received a grant from the organization, and she made a new friend along the way.
"The Baseball Assistance Team came to my rescue a number of times," Gregg said. "They came to my rescue financially. They came to my rescue by offering friendships. They came to my rescue by offering Tim McDowell, the consultant, to help me with emotional support. They came to my rescue on so many levels that really, when I say, 'I don't know where I would be without them today,' I really don't know where I would be without them."
Gregg is now healthy and working again. She wants other members of the baseball family to know that it's OK to ask for help. She had a special message to share.
"Katie, you are amazing," Gregg said. "Your words are what kept me going. Thank you. You've had a challenging life yourself in a number of ways, and you rose to serve. Your heart is to serve. My family knows you as 'Katie, my guardian angel.'"
Lentz, who is from Quincy, Ill., also knows heartbreak. She lost her father, Ed Lentz, late last year. Her mother, Carla Churchill Lentz, flew to San Diego this week to attend the B.A.T. breakfast and support her daughter.
"This is our passion. We want to serve others in the baseball family," Katie Lentz said. "It's not just a 9-to-5 job. It's emotional, and there's a lot of heart we put into it. If we just answered the phone without caring, we would not get very far."