TORONTO -- It’s not every day that Stu Scheurwater gets a chance to feel at home.
As the only Canadian umpire in the Major Leagues, and first full-time big league umpire from north of the border since Jim McKean retired in 2001, Scheurwater’s schedule sees him spend most of his time in the United States, traveling to a different city every three or four days.
But on Wednesday morning, in his home country to umpire the four-game Red Sox series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Scheurwater and the rest of his crew -- including Alan Porter, Roberto Ortiz and crew chief Mark Wegner -- made a visit to SickKids, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, giving the native of Regina, Saskatchewan, a little glimpse of home.
“This is the first time I’ve worked in Toronto in a couple years,” Scheurwater said. “And to be given the opportunity to do a hospital visit, it’s a very rewarding thing. Going in there and putting a smile on a kid’s face is an incredible feeling. To do it in Canada is very special for me.
“I actually met a young child today who’s from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. I got to talk to the child and the mother, said hello to them, and talked a little about Saskatchewan, where I’m from, and it was really neat to have that connection.”
And that wasn’t even the highlight for Scheurwater and the crew.
“The best part about it is that they got good news, and they’re going back to Saskatchewan tomorrow,” he said. “It was really cool to hear that, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, to hear they’re going home after spending 3 1/2 months there, it’s such a great thing.”
Wednesday’s visit was part of the UMPS CARE Charities Blue for Kids program. The crew offered words of encouragement and Build-A-Bear stuffed animals to children. Each youngster was able to choose from a variety of pre-stuffed animals as well as clothing outfits for their new furry friend, including bear-sized Blue Jays uniforms.
“We pick up an animal for them, and then we pick out an outfit for the bear together,” Scheurwater said. “We dress them up in superhero outfits or little tutus, there are tons of outfits you can build with. It’s a really cool thing to sit down at a table and help these kids and put a smile on their faces. It’s a very rewarding feeling.”
The event was made possible by UMPS CARE Charities, a nonprofit organization founded by MLB umpires to enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness. This was the 152nd hospital visit that MLB umpires have participated in since the program began in 2006, and the second of 17 scheduled visits during this season.
“It breaks up the everyday life of being on the road,” Scheurwater said. “To step into a hospital and give back -- I don’t have any children, but I can imagine what some of these parents are going through -- and to see smiles on the parents’ faces and have the interaction with them while they’re going through this with their children, it’s incredible.
“To take a couple hours out of our day is nothing compared to what these guys are going through. It’s something I’m glad we do as an organization, to get out and go to these communities and the children’s hospitals.”