Padres' Hoffman Wins Hutch Award
By Will Kimmey
SEATTLE--Jim Palmer and Jamie Moyer were talking with Ryan, a patient at the pediatric oncology unit of Children's Hospital, when Trevor Hoffman entered the room.
"Now it's time for the closer," Hoffman said as he walked past the Mariners throw blanket that was hanging in place of a normal hospital curtain in Ryan's room.
Hoffman and the two starting pitchers spent almost two hours visiting with kids and signing autographs before touring the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Hutch School before Hoffman was presented with the 2004 Hutch Award at a luncheon at Safeco Field.
"It makes you feel really blessed," Hoffman said at the hospital. "It's unbelievable the things these kids are going through."
The Hutch Award is given annually to the baseball player displaying honor, courage and dedication on the field and in life. It was created in 1965 to honor the late Fred Hutchinson, a former major league pitcher and manager who died of cancer at age 45. The award originated in Cincinnati, where Hutchinson managed, but now is presented each January in Seattle, Hutchinson's hometown and the site of the cancer center that his brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, named for him. A leader in its field, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center boasts three Nobel Prize winners.
Players including Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Pete Rose, George Brett and Curt Schilling have won the award over its 40 years, as did former Indians slugger Andre Thornton (1982), who attended this year's event.
Proceeds from the $150 per plate luncheon and following auction went to Fred Hutchinson's Gregory Fund for early cancer detection research. Moyer and his wife, Karen, donated $1.5 million in 2003 to help start the Gregory Fund, a joint effort between the FHCRC and the Moyer Foundation aimed at early cancer detection.
"The legacy that Fred Hutchinson left behind, helping people--children and adults--has had a great impact not only in the community but the whole world," said Moyer, who won the Hutch Award in 2003. "Being an athlete and being involved in the community that you work in and play in, you learn that you can make a difference."
Palmer, the national sports chairman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, shared similar sentiments in his keynote address at the luncheon. "Part of what the Hutch is, like a lot of teams I played for, it's a great organization," he said.
Palmer's approach at the hospital and cancer center was a studious one; he asked doctors questions about different types of cancer, and how to detect and treat them. "It was awakening to me," Palmer said. "It was overwhelming, and it really made all the things I've accomplished seem not as important."
Hoffman busied himself there by personalizing stuffed dogs wearing Padres T-shirts for the kids. He took a marked interest in the patients, wanting to know each one's age and hometown. Hoffman even asked to leave behind an autographed card and stuffed animal for Teague, who wasn't feeling well. He joked with Teague's father, who was wearing a Yankees World Series hat, by finding out the cap was from 1996 and not 1998--the year New York beat Hoffman's Padres for the title.
Hoffman, who lost a kidney when he was six weeks old, is involved with the San Diego chapter of the National Kidney Foundation since 1996 and sponsors Trevor's Kidney Kids. The San Diego Combined Health Agencies named him the Health Hero of 1997 for his efforts. Hoffman won the Padres Chairman Award in 1999 for philanthropic ventures including serving as the national spokesman for Kids First in Sports, supporting the Padres Scholars program and participating in the Touch 'Em All Foundation.
"Having an opportunity to come over and let them see an athlete--it might be insignificant, but it can put a smile on their faces," Hoffman said.
Hoffman's philanthropic efforts began at an early age. His parents got him involved with feeding the hungry through Meals on Wheels programs as a youngster. "It was something that was ingrained in me, to give back and help when you can," Hoffman said.
"What makes it so special is you see somebody like Trevor, who has had so much success on the field," Palmer said, "doing something like off the field makes all his on-field accomplishments shine that much more."
For more information on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Hutch Award, please visit www.fhcrc.org/hutchaward.