The kids who were just hoping for an autograph got a whole lot more when Carlos Martinez spent Monday afternoon at the David C. Pratt Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital.
The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher looked like a giant kid himself as he went from being challenged to a dance contest to being tested on the air hockey table before he finally settled in with a paint brush to help create the next great works of art.
“I liked the interaction with the kids and how much they know,” explained Martinez, with the help of his agent Brian Mejia translating. “I didn’t have that opportunity when I was a kid. To play with them and get to know them while they were painting, it was really touching. There was a little girl who made me a painting, that got me emotional–I wanted to cry, but I had a good time.”
Instead, Martinez returned the favor, painting and signing his own masterpiece for the girl. Carlos and his wife also made a couple of paintings to be left behind for Mercy’s “Art from the Heart” event in September.
“The buzz around here whenever someone comes in, especially someone like Carlos–it’s just amazing to hear all the kids running around having a good time,” said Stephanie Lindemann, a junior at St. Francis Borgia. “It’s really awesome to hear them all, instead of screaming in the other room, laughing and having a good time.”
A Cardinals fan ever since she can remember, the 17-year old Lindemann is undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 4 Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. “The chemo’s doing really well and reacting to it well. I actually finished by 33 days of radiation and nine rounds of chemo out of fourteen–light at the end of the tunnel.”
Martinez is one of her favorites, but one of his teammates also ranks pretty high on the list.
“Yadi Molina threw me a baseball out in the stands,” she beams. “I was right there behind the dugout, it was really awesome to catch him. Granted, I had to plow over my sister to catch the ball, but it was pretty awesome.”
Meanwhile, sixth-grader Cooper Duncan took time out from his own baseball schedule to drive up from Springfield and meet with Martinez.
Normally behind the plate, he has been playing second base lately for the Southwest Missouri Dirt Bags–perhaps a bit of an influence from a game he attended last year.
“It was Kolten Wong–hit a walk-off to right field,” smiles Duncan. “It was the Pirates…the one after Matt Adams hit the night before that, we were at that game.”
Duncan is being treated for hemochromatosis, an overload of iron in his system.
“A normal count is 20-50, I had 500 when I was in third grade,” Duncan explained. “Now we’re down to around 80-something…a couple more treatments.”
All total, there were close to 20 kids who spent part of the two and a half hours with Martinez. All received some one-on-one attention with the right-hander–who couldn’t help but think of their future and his own as he visited.
“Knowing this could be my son, is really touching to my heart,” reflected Martinez,” It makes me want to do more–really engage with the kids and have fun.”
“I think it’s kind of a big deal,” summed up Lindemann. “For him to come over and see everybody is pretty cool.”