Jason Varitek greets Tek's 33s participants.
Red Sox catcher Jason
Varitek welcomed 10 Children's Hospital Boston patients to Fenway
Park for an afternoon game against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday,
July 22. For many, it was an experience beyond their wildest dreams
as they sat waiting for Varitek in the shade of the Red Sox dugout.
Many had waited months to meet the player who invited them to be
his special guests, so jaws dropped and voices hushed when their
host walked over from the batting area to greet them.
"He's so nice to do this," said patient Brooke Coley's
mother, Ellen, as she watched Varitek greet the children one by
one and then meet them at eye level for a quick conversation.
The game was the third of five under a program called Tek's 33s,
which Varitek and his wife, Karen, started earlier this season in
the hopes of giving children the experience of a lifetime. In addition
to buying 20 tickets to each of five home games for patients and
their families, the Sox backstop gives each child a red Varitek
T-shirt, invites them onto the field to watch batting practice and
spends time talking with the young fans, taking photos and signing
autographs. The Vartieks also have visited the hospital regularly
since the beginning of the season, making trips to many of the inpatient
floors, where their presence has brought excitement to patients,
families and staff alike. Named after Varitek's uniform number,
Tek's 33s has been a smashing success so far, with two games and
several more visits yet to come.
The opportunity to meet a Red Sox player and be within 20 feet
of Varitek and his teammates taking batting practice can be a bit
overwhelming. Ani Whiting, the son of Paul and June Whiting, was
one of several patients who made his first trip to Fenway Park at
the July 22 game. "I am really excited!" said Ani, while he was
waiting for batting practice to begin. Weeks before the game, Ani's
mother, June, said, "He was beside himself with glee." Ani is a
huge baseball fan and is convinced that he would be a great a baseball
player, as his birth parents are from the Dominican Republic, which
is known for producing excellent baseball talent.
The 11-year-old has spent a considerable amount of time at CHB.
He had a heart transplant six and a half years ago and has had several
complications, including the development of Crohn's disease and
Type I diabetes, but recently has been doing well. Last summer the
Whitings planned to go to a Red Sox game, but couldn't make it because
of Ani's health. "This summer he is doing very well, so this
is a wonderful opportunity," June said.
The game was also a first for 26-year-old patient Adrienne Clement.
She was recovering from hip surgery in May when Jason and Karen
Varitek stopped by her room on one of their visits. Adrienne, who
lives in Washington, D.C., told them how much she enjoyed touring
Fenway Park while she was in town for her pre-op visit, but that
she had never attended a game. She was the oldest of the 10 patients
at the Tek's 33s game on July 22. "Jason Varitek is so generous,
and I feel that he's especially generous since I'm not a kid!"
Despite the heat and the 8-3 loss for the Red Sox, the children
were still in good spirits after the game. "That was really awesome!
Thanks!" said patient Nolan Houlihan. On the shuttle ride from the
game, Ani announced that he was already planning to write a thank
you note about the day.
During a visit to CHB last month, Jason Varitek told FOX 25
News, "The biggest part of what we're doing is trying to get
some of these kids to come out to a game, get a T-shirt, a coke
and a hotdog, come get some autographs, come early, just enjoy the
game, maybe put a smile on their face and allow them to be normal