It's not that the Chicago Cubs have players good enough to have won their first World Series in 108 years last season, but they have a bunch of really good guys on the team. When people ask me who my favorite player is, it's really hard not to name reigning MVP and former Rookie-of-the Year Kris Bryant. Or Javier Baez. Or Addison Russell. Terrific players and great guys. And there are others, as well -- not to mention manager Joe Maddon.
But I also say it's pretty tough to top All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. I love the guy, and have written about that here in the past. Well, he just added another reason. Rizzo has long been a regular visitor to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, coming by once a month during the season. And on Tuesday, he gave $3.5 MILLION to them. It comes through his Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.
Rizzo is himself a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma when he was in the minor leagues and playing in the Red Sox organization, so his connection to the hospital is clearly personal. According to the Cubs website, "his foundation has created two endowed funds for patients being treated for cancer and their families. One provides grants on a case-by-case basis for families facing financial hardship due to unexpected needs. The second supports two oncology Child Life specialists, a position funded entirely by philanthropy."
Here's a Chicago Sun-Times video of the ceremony of and Rizzo's emotional speech, talking about remembering what he himself went through, something he generally puts behind him. "I don't do that much, but today was one of the days when it got to me."
He added later, "I feel I try to do a really good job of keeping baseball in perspective," he said. "You go out there between the lines and give it your all, give it your best, and that's all you can do. There's so much more to life than baseball. It's a balance -- you have to learn how to balance that. You have to go out there and have a job to do. I put my heart and soul into baseball, and when I leave the field, I try to just be Anthony, not the baseball player."
A couple things to note in this video. This isn't the first time he has given money to the hospital, or others connected to it. You'll see in the video one of the mothers, Sue Erickson, talking eloquently about Rizzo and what he's meant to her son Matthew. What the reporter Madeline Kenney doesn't say on camera, though she writers in the Sun-Times article -- "Erickson also said that the Rizzos have helped pay for Matthew’s medical bills and the family’s mortgage when they were struggling to make payments. The Rizzos also sent Erickson and her three kids to Disney World last summer for a family vacation." (In all, Rizzo has now given over $4 million to the children's hospital.)
Also, reporter Kenney comments in the video how choked up Rizzo got when unveiling a signed jersey. What isn't mentioned is the reason he was so touched -- the jersey wasn't signed by his teammates, but rather the kids at the hospital.
A couple years ago, I posted a wonderful 15-20 minute featurette that MLB Network did on Rizzo about his career and battle overcoming cancer. It's highly worth checking out, and you can see it here.
For those who want something shorter, this is probably the most famous clip of Anthony Rizzo on the ball field. It comes from August 12, 2015, and not only is it a tremendous play, but it shows the enthusiasm and effort he puts into the game. When he said above, "You go out there between the lines and give it your all, give it your best," that wasn't just an Athlete Cliche, but this video shows he means it.
(The timestamp show the clip to be 2:14, but it's really only around a minute -- they show the play twice, as reported by by the Cubs TV announcer Len Kaspar and then their radio play-by-play man, my fave Pat Hughes, who has the better call.)