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Rangers spread holiday cheer at hospital

Players past and present relish opportunity to meet with young fans

Special to

DALLAS -- It was easy to figure out who was the most excited when a Rangers contingent led by pitcher Matt Harrison and his wife Meghan visited the hospital room of Breana Bladel at Children's Medical Center of Dallas on Wednesday morning.

Breana, who is 17, said it was awesome. Her father, David, was impressed. Her mother, Tina, was overcome with emotion. And elation, too. All three agreed Breana's the biggest Rangers fan of them all.

"It's an amazing thing to see them here on what was already a difficult day," Tina said.

Rangers players, coaches, former players and announcers made their annual visit to see young patients at Children's Medical Center. They attended a holiday party for 20 patients in Moore Auditorium -- the room was filled with Texas Rangers balloons -- and also visited individual rooms.

The Rangers were well represented, from owner Ray Davis, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington to current players Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers and Harrison. Former players who visited patients included Steve Buechele, Jim Sundberg and Mark McLemore.

"Hopefully, we were able to make a few kids smile," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.

"It brings joy during the holidays for the kids and the families," Children's President and CEO Christopher J. Durovich said. "We're glad for the kids who came down and glad when the players can come up to the rooms."

Kade Zink, an 11-year-old from Godley, Texas, sat at a table with Scheppers and talked about baseball. Zink is a catcher. So he talked to Scheppers about the relationship between pitchers and catchers.

"It's really cool," Kade said.

It was Scheppers' first visit to Children's, and his wife Jessica joined him for an emotional few hours. The Rangers have been coming to the hospital at Christmas time for more than 20 years.

"It puts life in perspective," Scheppers said. "Obviously, this is a great experience to see the light in their eyes. I'm so happy and thrilled to spend a couple of hours here."

Added Jessica: "For the kids to be able to see the guys and say hi is what Christmas and life is all about."

For Breana and many of the patients, it was the culmination of two special days. Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki visited Children's on Tuesday night. The Dallas Cowboys also have made their visit.

"It made being in the hospital a little bit worth it," Breana said.

Todd Wills is a contributor to

Texas Rangers