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Sox, Kittle aid crisis with ballpark blood drive

@scottmerkin
May 8, 2020

CHICAGO -- The White Sox originally were scheduled to be on the road for a May 8th contest in San Francisco, which became one of the numerous games postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. But Guaranteed Rate Field still was put to excellent usage Friday in less-than-perfect baseball weather, with a

CHICAGO -- The White Sox originally were scheduled to be on the road for a May 8th contest in San Francisco, which became one of the numerous games postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Guaranteed Rate Field still was put to excellent usage Friday in less-than-perfect baseball weather, with a windchill of 30 degrees. The White Sox and American Red Cross, in partnership with Anheuser-Busch, the organization’s official domestic beer partner, held a blood drive to help maintain a much-needed supply of blood in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis. This effort is part of a larger partnership between Anheuser-Busch and the American Red Cross to utilize available arenas and stadiums nationwide as temporary blood-drive centers.

There were 100 appointments filled for blood donations, taking place in the ballpark patio area, with no walk-ins allowed. Ron Kittle, who hit 140 home runs over eight years for the White Sox and is currently a team ambassador, was one of the many who gave.

“Well, baseball is important, but also, living is important,” said Kittle, speaking on the right-field concourse before he donated. “I was asked if I was interested and I said, 'Absolutely: Any time you can help out a cause.'

“This is world-wide. It’s important that if you are not healthy, you better stay home. That’s one of the big keys there. We’ve all been unhealthy and gone places. We can’t afford to do this now. I wear a mask, not for my benefit. I don’t want somebody else to give it to me, and I do it with respect, and I think that’s important that we stay strong with this. We focus.”

Kittle also provided praise for the valiant hospital workers across Chicago and across the country.

“It goes all the way to the custodians in the hospital who are important,” Kittle said. “We have to say, 'Thank you' to them. We have to be protective of our kids. We need a future. We need baseball. We need some enthusiasm right now because people are down.”

Proper social distancing was observed in the blood donation area, as well as with the 10 media members, who each had their temperature taken after going through security before entering the ballpark and were required to wear masks. Giving blood at the ballpark also was meaningful to the White Sox fans in attendance.

“When I was at home during the stay-at-home ordinance when it first started, the news conferences would ask people to do something and one of the things was to give blood,” said Cari Paller, a White Sox season-ticket holder who grew up in the ballpark’s Bridgeport area and referred to Opening Day as her Christmas day. “I immediately thought to contact the Red Cross and find out where there’s a location where I could do it.

“At first, it was going to be at Navy Pier, and then the White Sox Charities sent out an email and I thought it couldn’t be a more perfect place for me to come and give blood at my second home. This is where I would be with my friends hanging out. So, to see people out giving blood in that area was a little surreal for me at first, but it felt good to be there, at the same time.”

Head groundskeeper Roger Bossard’s field looked perfectly manicured and ready for action. It looked a little lonely without fans and White Sox players to keep it company, although hope remains for baseball’s return.

“I miss the people I work with every day and I see on a regular basis,” said Kittle, who joked Budweiser and not blood might come out of his veins for his donation. “The sound of the bat, the ball, waving to somebody and the excitement for the little kids. I think that’s a really cool part of the game. People forget about what’s in the stands.

“They worry about what’s on the field. The White Sox look like they had a pretty doggone good roster out of Spring Training. I’m excited to see them come back and play some baseball if it happens. They are going to make the right call. I don’t know what the right call is going to be but I’m going to be rooting for the 2020 team because they have some great players, and everybody was looking forward to coming back to Chicago. But this is an All-Star game for the Chicago White Sox, the American Red Cross and Anheuser-Busch, coming out here to give blood today.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.