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Smile makers!

  

By Gordy Jones

 

Every year, Joe Mauer hosts a pizza party for kids who are patients at Gillette Children’s Hospital, and a few of his teammates always tag along. And every year, I walk away from this event a bit humbled — and I have to put my life and troubles into perspective.

That is because I just spent my lunch hour with some very remarkable individuals.  I’m not talking about Joe Mauer and the Twins — although they are pretty special to make this happen. The real champions I’m referring to are the kids who attend the luncheon. One would never guess that there’s illness, pain, or suffering in this crowd after seeing their carefree smiles. The only things these kids had on their minds during this special day were Twins baseball, pizza, and their new buddies who were having lunch with them. Their family’s faces lit up as well; I’m guessing not only because of the Twins, but because their kids were laughing and having so much fun. 

I asked Joe Mauer how he came up with this idea. “My wife, Maddie, actually worked at Gillette. You might say this is in our backyard. She introduced me to the entire Gillette family, and since day 1 it’s been great. The kids are a lot of fun, and I enjoy doing things with them.” I told him that over the many years I’ve known him, I have always seen that he has a love for children. He replied, “I always have! Yeah! It’s one of the things my wife and I like to do…it is how we get involved in the community.”

I asked Joe if he ever had a chance to meet any pro ballplayers when he was a kid. “Not until high school,” he said. “Paul Molitor came back to Cretin and put on some clinics.” I said it is kind of ironic that today Paul is one of his coaches. He looked at me with that big Joe Mauer smile and said: “Yes, it is. And it’s really great that he is, too!”

 

Atta boy, Roy!

Michael Cuddyer has always been a big supporter of the Boys and Girls Clubs. When he played in Minnesota, he hosted an annual celebrity waiter dinner to raise funds for the organization. Now that “Cuddy” plays in Colorado, Roy Smalley and his wife, Christine, have taken over as hosts.

The 2014 dinner was once again a huge success and a lot of fun.

Roy Smalley, with Twins players Casey Fien, Brian Dozier, Sam Fuld, and Chris Colabello, along with former Twins players, FSN personalities, and, of course, TC Bear, schmoozed with the fans, waited tables, bartended, and even helped bus tables. It wasn’t all work, though; many of the guys would join in on the guests’ conversation, sit with them in their booths and share a beverage, and pose for pictures or group “selfies.”

Roy was actually a celebrity waiter in this event in previous years. When Cuddy left for the Rockies, Roy told the committee that if he and Christine could help out in any way, they would be happy to do so. The Twins eventually came back to them, and asked them to be hosts the evening. They agreed to do so, and in their second year, they are having a good time, while doing a great job.  Roy smiled as he told me, “I just couldn’t have more fun. I love this event!”

During the year he occasionally visits the clubs, plays basketball, and hangs out with the kids, too. As the full house at the Capitol Grille in Minneapolis enjoyed themselves, Roy’s eyes surveyed the crowd. He looked quite satisfied and said: “But this night is the major portion of my involvement with the club. I couldn’t be happier.”

Roy, formally Roy Frederick Smalley III, had a 12-year major league career at shortstop, including two stints with the Twins and the 1987 World Championship team. He comes from a true baseball family. His father, Roy Smalley Jr. had a 10-year major league career, and his uncle, Gene Mauch, not only played, but was a legendary manager for several teams, including the Twins. Roy told me: “Between the two of those guys, they taught me most everything I know about baseball. When I was 8 years old, Gene Mauch was managing the Phillies. He got me a little Phillies uniform, and when they came into town to play at Dodger Stadium, he took me down on the field. I started taking ground balls at batting practice whenever the Phillies came to town.” 

Roy does a good job as an analyst for the Twins. I asked him if he had any formal training. “My training was spending my whole life in that game. I always tried to become a better player, and to learn more about the game. As it turns out, if you know a lot about baseball, and you are able to be articulate, maybe you can go on TV.”   Being handsome and well-dressed doesn’t hurt, either.

      

Check out Gordy’s book at www.baseballguy.org. Gordy can be reached at baseballgordy@gmail.com.