PHOENIX -- Alex Armenta, 7, smiled broadly as he enjoyed a game of air hockey with a special guest in the Child Life Zone at Phoenix Children's Hospital.A few minutes earlier, Alex seemed to enjoy playing the same game with his mother, Cathleen, just fine. After all, Alex had spent
PHOENIX -- Alex Armenta, 7, smiled broadly as he enjoyed a game of air hockey with a special guest in the Child Life Zone at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
A few minutes earlier, Alex seemed to enjoy playing the same game with his mother, Cathleen, just fine. After all, Alex had spent nearly a week in bed until Tuesday, recovering from surgery for a ruptured appendix. So just about anything would have been a welcome change.
But anyone could tell from looking at Alex's grin that there was something special playing against young D-backs pitcher Archie Bradley, who celebrated the fifth anniversary of his selection as the team's first-round Draft choice in 2011 by visiting sick children at the hospital.
What was so special for children like Alex, who crowded into the well-equipped and brightly colored recreation room, was that Bradley and third baseman Jake Lamb demonstrated how much they care about the kids. Some of the patients, including Alex, arrived in wheelchairs. Alex also still had an IV in his arm, not that it was going to stop him from enjoying himself.
"They got to sign my hat and I got to meet them,'' Alex said. "I'm not being a couch potato and watching TV.''
Landon Pelletier, 6, another patient at the hospital, said he is a big baseball fan and enjoys going to see D-backs games at Chase Field. Landon said he will definitely be rooting for Bradley and Lamb after meeting them.
"I really like baseball and they hit the ball really far,'' Landon said. "I'm really excited.''
Several parents, including Marin Pelletier, Landon's mother, said the players' visit helped motivated their children to get out of bed and start enjoying life again after surgeries and other treatments. The D-backs have a close partnership with Phoenix Children's Hospital. Other players who have visited this year include outfielder A.J. Pollock, pitchers Evan Marshall and Zac Curtis and All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Bradley, 23, who appears to be blossoming as a Major League pitcher, said he enjoys visiting the children and would do so even if the media wasn't covering the event.
"We get so caught up in playing baseball,'' Bradley said. "It's nice to come here and realize how fortunate and blessed we are.''
"If we can bring a smile or a laugh to a kid's face,'' he said, that makes for a special day.
A hard-throwing right hander from Oklahoma, Bradley has bounced between Triple-A Reno and the D-backs, but he has put together two consecutive strong starts, a welcome relief for a team with two pitchers on the disabled list. Bradley is 2-1 with a 4.94 ERA. He is scheduled to face the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday at Chase Field.
Lamb, 25, who is Bradley's roommate off the field, said he learned the value of putting life in perspective as a young boy. He said his sister, Megan, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3 and he was 7 or 8 years old. He said his sister survived the life-threatening scare and is doing well now.
Lamb said he learned the value of having people who care visit the hospital during his sister's illness. Lamb is happy to make a sick child's day by giving him or her a hat, an autograph, or simply posing for pictures with children and their families.
"It just puts life in perspective,'' Lamb said. "I take the game very seriously,'' taking pride in his performance and doing his best at all times.
But Lamb, who is establishing himself as a solid professional this season with a .268 batting average, 11 home runs, and 35 RBIs, said his sister's illness and the battles being fought by the children at the hospital demonstrate a basic truth about life.
"There's bigger things out there than baseball,'' Lamb said.
Jim Walsh is a contributor to MLB.com.