Bucks giving back to KC community
Royals catcher raising funds, awareness for prenatal care
KANSAS CITY -- When Royals catcher John Buck took the microphone to help the March of Dimes, he was speaking from the heart.
He and his wife, Brooke, had gone through a difficult yet joyous summer with their prematurely born twin sons, Brody and Cooper. Now they were the ambassador family at the third annual March of Dimes Blue Jean Ball in Overland Park, Kan.
When Cooper and Brody arrived early, they were so tiny that Buck could cradle each of them in the palms of his hands. Cooper was in neonatal intensive care for about three weeks, but Brody had to stay for an additional four weeks. He came home with oxygen and a heart monitor.
"When they send you home with oxygen and a heart monitor, you're thinking, 'Why did they give us this child to go home with if, in order to live, he has to have this stuff?'" Buck said. "It was kind of scary. But he got bigger and better and here he is now."
The twins were born on May 15 at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, and Buck missed the Royals' Interleague trip to play at Florida. The boys weren't his only concern, because Brooke had high blood pressure issues. Buck rejoined the Royals at Boston, but he had plenty on his mind.
"When I got back off the road trip and went back in there and literally held Brody in the palm of my hand, he was all strapped up to these things, and reality set in. It was scary," Buck said.
With Buck on the road or at Kauffman Stadium nearly every day, Brooke shouldered the load. Luckily, she had her parents to lean on, but it was tough with one boy at home and one at the clinic.
"She's the rock," Buck said of his wife. "Sometimes I ask her now, 'How did you deal with it?' She was going to the NIC Unit, spending every minute she could, and yet we still had another premie at home."
During the hospitalization, the Bucks got acquainted with other families with premature babies.
"Brooke was hearing how hard it was, and we could hear some of the other families talking about what they were going to do financially -- this that and the other. And Brooke wanted to get involved somehow," Buck said.
They teamed with Dr. Rob Holcomb and the March of Dimes. The Blue Jean Ball fundraiser got off to a flying start when Buck and Royals teammates David DeJesus and Alex Gordon each donated $5,000 and the total $15,000 was matched by the ballclub.
"David actually named the boys. He calls them 'Team Brooper.' That's Brody and Cooper put together," Buck said.
"When I'd come in off a road trip, the whole team knew as soon as I got in I was going straight to the hospital. So the next day, when I'd come in [the clubhouse], everybody would ask, 'How's Team Brooper?'"
March of Dimes officials said the Blue Jean Ball raised $130,000. Of that, $30,000 came from the three players and the matching gift from Royals Charities.
"It's not just about raising money," Buck said, noting that support groups are involved.
Royal Charities distributed $623,000 in grants to Kansas City area charities during the year, a busy one for the team's many community and charitable efforts. Among the club's initiatives in the community:
Club president Dan Glass and his wife, Penny, were co-chairs of an on-field fundraiser, Diamond of Dreams, which raised $125,000 for the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Dream Factory. The entire Royals team joined manager Trey Hillman at Kauffman Stadium for a dinner and auction that benefited an organization granting dreams to 200 seriously- or chronically-ill children each year.
For the second straight year, DeJesus joined a crew of Royals associates serving the annual Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and poverty-stricken at the City Union Mission Men's Center in downtown Kansas City. At the same time, Royals Hall of Famer Frank White again helped serve meals at the nearby Family Center. The food was provided by the Royals. DeJesus also participated in the Thanksgiving celebration at Guadalupe Centers, Inc., which serves the Latino community.
Teaming with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, the Royals collected 826 pieces of new and used baseball and softball equipment for the Guadalupe Centers youth program in Kansas City. The organization also received a $5,000 check from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund.
DeJesus talked baseball, played catch with the kids and put smiles on their faces, while team mascot Sluggerrr also livened up the second annual Kansas City Ability Day for disabled individuals and their families.
Mark Teahen held the first Challenge Your Fashion event, raising $75,000 for the YMCA Challenger Baseball effort to build a ballpark in North Kansas City for physically-disabled kids. Among teammates modeling for the show were Billy Butler, DeJesus, Joey Gathright, Esteban German, Gordon, Zack Greinke, Mark Grudzielanek, Gil Meche, Tony Pena and Ryan Shealy.
Fans donated 2,185 items of school supplies collected by Royals Wives and volunteers for pupils at Primitivo Garcia Elementary, a magnet school in downtown Kansas City with an emphasis on world language and developing long-term learners with a capacity for leadership and service.
The Kansas City Royals Celebrity Golf Tournament, a first-time event, matched current players and alumni with local participants and raised $25,000 for the Special Olympics of the Greater Kansas City Metro. More than 3,200 children and adults with disabilities compete in the program.
A 2008-09 calendar, featuring players in casual everyday clothes, was produced to benefit the Ali Kemp Educational Foundation, which honors the memory of a teenage girl murdered in '02. Along with a $25,000 donation, the team sponsored free defense classes for women.
The Royals partnered with Heart to Heart International, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army in supporting severe-weather relief for neighboring areas hit by tornadoes and floods. The organizations collected funds during a weekend series.
Royals Wives held their 26th annual Food Drive to benefit Harvesters, the only food bank in Kansas City, and St. James Place, a soup kitchen and food pantry. Fans donated 486 pounds of food and $5,026. A silent auction of baseball memorabilia raised funds for the project.
The fifth annual Coat Drive gathered 160 warm winter garments to be distributed to needy children and adults by the Johnson County Christmas Bureau. Hillman and Royals associates also helped the Bureau in the annual distribution of holiday needs and gifts before Christmas.
At the final home game, fans bought chances to win autographed "Shirts Off Their Backs" from Royals players. The project raised $20,000 for Operation Breakthrough, which provides social services for underprivileged children.
A classic-car auction, featuring a limited-edition 2008 Dodge Challenger, raised $51,250 for Royals Charities.
The mission of Royals Charities is to make a difference in the lives of Kansas City citizens through grants and donations to various charitable organizations. With the help of Royals players and their families, Royals Charities since 2001 has contributed more than $3 million through grants to non-profit associations that invest in youth, education and neighborhood programs.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.