Rays Players Make the Rounds at All Children's Amid Soaring Spirits and A Few Surprises

Luke Scott knows a thing or two about duck hunting and the great outdoors. So the Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter couldn’t contain his smile last week after asking a little boy at All Children’s Hospital if he’d watched the Rays game the night before on TV.

“No,” said the child.  “I was watching Duck Dynasty.”

Scott nodded approvingly at the honest reply, even if it meant the boy hadn’t seen Tampa Bay’s dramatic, walk-off win over Seattle that put the team back on track in the heat of a division race.

Duck Dynasty? Yeah, I like that show, too,” the slugger said of the reality TV hit. “Hunting and fishing – that’s my type of lifestyle.”

Scott proceeded to sign a custom baseball card for the young patient and wished him well, then moved down the long hall to meet more kids – part of an hour-long tour last week that also featured hard-throwing relief pitcher Jake McGee and scene-stealing, sea-dog mascot Raymond, who flopped on floors, commandeered nursing stations and comically climbed into hospital beds.

In another room, the ballplayer met up with 17-year-old patient Dylan Hastings. Scott looked at Dylan’s shock of brown hair and suggested it might have the makings of No. 30’s modified-“Rayhawk” – minus the ‘80s rat-tail he’s worn lately.

“You let your hair grow just a little bit more, you’ll have the right look,” he said, drawing laughs from the teen’s girlfriend and his mother, Jennifer, thrilled to pose for a photo with Scott. “He’s my favorite!” she said.

Dylan was part of a nice double-play. One day earlier, he was visited by three umpires in town to work the Rays-Mariners series – snagging a Build-A-Bear stuffed animal for his girlfriend and a squeezable baseball for himself. Now he had a big-leaguer in his room making friendly chit-chat, along with Raymond’s bed-side antics for the second straight day.

“It was perfect,” Dylan said. “It makes me feel better actually.”

One floor below, McGee was making similar contact with kids and families, eventually joined by Raymond as well. In one particular room, they happened upon a familiar face – that of longtime Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed, whose 3-year-old son Casey was recovering from neurosurgery. The moment McGee and Raymond walked through the door, Casey’s face lit up, while the expressions of his parents reflected emotion and gratitude over the surprise visit.

“This whole thing has been pretty intense,” Freed said. “You know, I’ve done visits over the years to hospitals. But to be on this end of it, I’ve never had this experience. Now I see it means so much more than I ever realized. It’s absolutely magic. He’s been in so much pain the last few days, and now seeing him smile, it’s hard to hold back crying.”

Just another day on the floors of All Children’s, where magic takes all shapes – sometimes in the form of a big-league ballplayer, a furry blue mascot or the simple smile of a sick child.

Faces and Places” is a regular column written by Strategic Communications Editor Dave Scheiber highlighting those people, places and things that make All Children’s Hospital special. Video by Mollie Scheiber

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