Beavers lift spirits of hospitalized children

OMAHA, Neb. — A few of the big, strong and healthy athletes who play baseball at Oregon State made quite an impression Saturday morning on several families who have suffered misfortune.

Players Erik Ammon, Blake Keitzman and Braden Wells joined coach Pat Casey and Ron Northcut, OSU's director of baseball operations, in a visit to the Pediatrics Unit of Nebraska Medical Center.

Forget that it was eight hours before the start of the College World Series championship series between the Beavers, the 2006 champions, and North Carolina, the 2006 runner-up. For about an hour, that game wasn't on their minds.

Rather, the players had their photo taken with a 7-year-old girl from Mississippi, who has been at the hospital since January. Her body was almost sliced in half in a car accident that killed her mother.

Her father is by her side after she had received a multiple transplant. He was grateful for the visit as his daughter slept.

The OSU contingent visited a 7-year-old boy from Georgia. He had a liver transplant as an infant in 2000 and was back for a checkup. He may go home Monday and be able to play with friends.

They talked baseball with a 13-year-old Omaha boy who has had two transplants, the latest involving a liver, pancreas and small bowel. He's on the mend.

They sang "Happy Birthday" to a 3-year-old boy whose family is moving from Kansas to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to be closer to the medical care he'll need. The boy, who has received a small intestine and liver transplant, responded by blowing kisses to thank them for the visit and autographs.

They talked to thankful parents of infants who are hospitalized and visited with the mother and older sister of a 3-year-old girl from Michigan who has spent about 19 months of her life in four separate stays at the hospital.

And they talked serious baseball, hoping it wasn't an NCAA violation, with 15-year-old Brendan Spongberg. He was in Omaha to participate in a youth baseball tournament and was scheduled to pitch Saturday.

However, he was struck by a car and lifted onto the windshield. Fortunately, no bones in were broken, but he needed 50 stitches to close the gashes to his head.

"I want to be there tonight," he told the OSU visitors. "I want you to repeat."

Casey suggested he stay in bed, get some rest and cheer while watching on TV.

It proved to be an emotional trip for Casey and his players.

"I hope they realize how fortunate we are," Casey said.

"Definitely, without a doubt," said Ammon, a junior catcher from Salem. "You see what other people are going through and you put it in perspective."


DOWNSIDE: There were two negatives about Oregon State's 11-4 victory over North Carolina Saturday. One was hitting into five double plays, a record for a single game in the championship series. It also tied the all-time single-game record for the CWS. The second negative was Joey Wong getting hit just above the right elbow by a pitch in the eighth with the game's outcome already decided. He was bleeding but figures to play today.


HERE AND THERE: The Beavers led the CWS in hitting (.333) and ERA (2.67) through their first three games. ... UNC first baseman Dustin Ackley leads the country in hits with 117. OSU's leader, Darwin Barney, has 81. ... Ackley is batting .401. In the CWS, he has six RBIs after hitting home runs in back-to-back games against Rice, but he's hitting only .240 (6-for-25) ... After Ackley singled to start the second, Reyes picked him off first with one out. ... Attendance at Saturday's game was 26,887 to bring the 14-game total to 275,690. That's 9,000 ahead of last year's record pace, but a third game would be needed Monday to break the all-time mark.

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