BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield has been visiting Boston Children's Hospital since he was an active pitcher for the Red Sox, and as he stepped back into the halls of the facility -- one of the top-ranked pediatric hospitals in the nation -- he paused to reflect on the great partnership
BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield has been visiting Boston Children's Hospital since he was an active pitcher for the Red Sox, and as he stepped back into the halls of the facility -- one of the top-ranked pediatric hospitals in the nation -- he paused to reflect on the great partnership that exists between the two institutions to this day.
"It's been going on since I came here in 1995," the former knuckleballer and two-time Red Sox World Series champion said. "The relationship between the Red Sox and the Children's Hospital has been amazing."
Wakefield was one of several baseball dignitaries to visit young patients at the hospital Wednesday morning prior to Game 2 of the World Series between the visiting Dodgers and the host Red Sox. As part of the visit, the group -- which included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB Goodwill Ambassador Vera Clemente, wife of late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, her sons, Luis and Roberto Jr. and Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy -- donated a "Play Space," a unit containing video-game consoles, virtual reality devices, TVs and MLB video games.
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Additionally, four umpires who are currently working the World Series -- Ted Barrett, Jeff Nelson, Jim Reynolds and Tim Timmons -- were on hand to represent the UMPS CARE Charities BLUE Program. The umpires handed out 100 Build-A-Bear furry friends and outfits.
Once word started getting around about the visit, dozens of patients and their families flocked to the play area near the entrance of the hospital, where they met the dignitaries, played with the new gaming console, obtained autographs and picked up complimentary souvenirs such as World Series programs, Red Sox sunglasses and World Series ballcaps.
The kids also hung out with the most popular figure to attend the event -- Wally, the Green Monster.
"This is part of our ongoing effort to identify places where we can interact with the community, with children's causes," Manfred said. "This is one of the great children's hospitals in the United States. If there is an opportunity to provide a distraction for some of the children while they're here in the hospital, we thought it was a great thing."
Manfred pointed out, specifically, how cool the virtual Home Run Derby gaming system is, calling it his favorite new product.
"The kids are going to find it to be really exciting," he said. "You can step into the game and feel like you're in the Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. It really is awesome."
Wakefield, one of the product's first testers on Wednesday, echoed Manfred's enthusiasm, especially after he tried it out for himself.
"To be able to come down and spend a couple minutes with the kids and show them the virtual reality game that Major League Baseball gave them is amazing," Wakefield said. "Once I got the headset on, I really felt like I was at Nationals Park. I wish I would have had that back when I was playing."
Major League Baseball is active in the communities when a jewel event -- such as the World Series or All-Star Game -- arrives to a city. Several activities take place, in the city and at the ballpark, and MLB has devoted significant funding to ensure it leaves a positive legacy behind once the event has concluded.
"At Fenway Park we have a fundamental commitment to try to win as many games as possible and provide a great fan experience for everyone who walks through our gates," Kennedy said. "But in our 17 years here in Boston, the most important thing we can possibly do is try to connect with kids, to grow the game, grow that next generation of fans.
"I really want to thank Commissioner Manfred. He's done a lot of great things to move us forward, but in my estimation, the most important thing he has done is to recognize this responsibility we have to be active participants in our communities, all over the country and connect the greatest game in the world with kids and families."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.