TORONTO -- Children at SickKids Hospital were paid a visit by group of Blue Jays and their families Wednesday morning ahead of the team's evening game against the Red Sox.
Relievers Dustin McGowan, Todd Redmond and Brett Cecil, catcher Josh Thole and the team's mascot, Ace, stopped by Marnie Lounge, the hospital's recreation room, to sign autographs, play video games and shoot the breeze with some of their young fans. Jennifer Cecil, Jilly McGowan and Redmond's fiancée, Leigh Anne Proctor, also attended.
"It really opens your eyes and puts things into perspective," said Thole, who was there with his wife, Kathryn. "No. 1 is giving back. It's unfortunate, but these kids cannot just pick up and go to a baseball game. So to be able to come to them and see the smiles on their faces -- I've seen some smiles on kids faces who are just about to go into surgery. They're laughing and they're telling us they're excited to see us."
For the kids at SickKids, getting the chance to meet the Blue Jays was an exciting moment.
J.D. Brar, who's been in an out of the hospital for the past four years, remarked that he'd watched the Blue Jays on the field, but had never seen them up close.
His father, O.P., said his son is a third-generation Blue Jays fan who has gone to several games at Rogers Centre with his dad and grandfather. But Wednesday's visit was a special moment, he said.
"Right down from grandpa," said O.P. "He got me into baseball and now it's my son. We try to go to games together once a year at least.
"When you think about it, having them here taking the time to come see the kids, it's makes a difference. That means a lot to the kids. They remember these things…It humanizes them, versus when you see them on TV."
Susie Petro, SickKids child life specialist, said she's never seen Marnie's Lounge so packed.
"We have lots of different kids from different units that have come down to meet the Blue Jays," she said. "There's not always positive things happening in the hospital, so they're able to take pictures with the players, hang out, play games, and that's something they're able to take back to their friends and family."
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.