CLEVELAND -- Pediatric cancer causes many children and teenagers to miss big moments in their lives that most of us take for granted. Prom has always been a milestone event that many kids look forward to attending, and it becomes a night that will be remembered forever as they grow
CLEVELAND -- Pediatric cancer causes many children and teenagers to miss big moments in their lives that most of us take for granted. Prom has always been a milestone event that many kids look forward to attending, and it becomes a night that will be remembered forever as they grow older. But not everyone is fortunate enough to make that memory.
When Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger heard he could help give these young cancer patients a night to remember, he didn’t think twice.
The 28-year-old hurler was back in Cleveland with an upper back strain as his team opened a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City on April 12 when a random message popped up on his phone.
“So, I get a message from like a limo company,” Clevinger said. “It’s like, ‘Hey … we couldn’t get anybody to come for this "A Prom To Remember" event, and we usually have some athletes. We usually have some Browns players. We couldn’t get anyone to come. Is there any way? I’m not affiliated with the event really.’ I think he was just driving some of the kids. But he’s like, ‘Here’s the contract info for the people.’"
"A Prom To Remember"? Clevinger reached out to the Indians public relations staff to figure out what exactly the event was about. He quickly learned that it was a dance held for kids with cancer at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Cleveland since 2010. It’s an organization that sends limos to Akron Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Childrens Hospital and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, picking up around 150 kids to bring them to prom. All of their tuxedos and dresses were donated and not a single dollar is spent by the families.
And it was happening the next night. Short notice? Maybe. Did Clevinger care? Not in the slightest. He was in.
“I mean I got two little girls at home,” Clevinger said of his 2-year-old daughters who are 10 months apart. “So, I mean it’s obviously big, especially when it’s these kids that -- I mean there’s a lot of things that they miss out on. I mean it’s hard to comprehend in our daily lives … so I mean for them to have that night and if I could add any light to their lives, obviously I’m going to go.
“And it was like an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was right up my alley.”
The event began at 7 p.m. and the kids were dropped off outside of the Ritz Carlton. They made their way down a red carpet, getting escorted by local police and firefighters, Miss Ohio and Miss Teen Ohio contestants and, of course, Clevinger. And the reactions he received were priceless.
"The funniest part -- the very first girl that went up, she goes and takes a picture with the police officers to escort her down and they’re like, 'Hey, this is Mike Clevinger,' and she was like excited to see me,” Clevinger said. “And they’re like, ‘Do you want a picture with him?’ and she’s like, ‘No thank you, Mike Clevinger,’ and like kept walking. I was like, ‘I got shut down my first date of the night!’ That was the first one, and I was like, 'Oh, this isn’t going well for me and my prom.'"
Although the first encounter may not have gone as planned, the Indians right-hander said there were a lot of girls and boys who were excited to see him and took plenty of photos. After escorting a few people, he decided to stay at the camera station.
“I stayed until all the limos got there so any kid that wanted a picture could get a picture,” Clevinger said. “Then I went upstairs to watch their little party and where they ate.”
Not everyone would be willing to show up to an event just 24 hours after getting an invitation. And although Clevinger would much rather be healthy and on the road with his team, he was able to enjoy a special night while he was at home recovering.
“It was a blast,” Clevinger said. “As much support as we get in Cleveland, especially me every time I toe the mound ... I mean I feel like it’s innate to come do this for the same community that’s always there for me.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.