By Shannon Drayer
Some things can’t be measured by statistics. We can learn a lot about a player by the statistics but the intangibles, the immeasurables need to be picked up by the eye. I know what Joe Saunders is on paper but I saw and then learned much more about him earlier this week.
At Yankee Stadium they do something somewhat odd in that they allow player/team guests to exit the field by walking directly in front of the visitors’ dugout. At just about every other field I can think of on field guests are only allowed behind a rope behind home plate. At Yankee Stadium you will often see the guests stopping for a bit right alongside the dugout railing.
Tuesday while the team was stretching a family stopped in that spot and watched the players. Joe Saunders broke away from the team stretch and came up to the family and gave the mother a big hug. They talked and laughed for awhile and clearly were happy to spend time together. When I ran into Saunders in the clubhouse the next day I asked about what I saw.
“Those were friends of mine that took in some foster kids,” he told me with a smile.
He seemed ready to leave the conversation at that but when I remarked about what a great thing that was for them to do he shared a little bit more of their story.
Saunders told me the children has been horribly neglected and abused and that they were discovered when the eldest brother was found rummaging for food in a dumpster.
As he told the tale it began to sound familiar. It dawned on me that this is what he was talking about. The four New Jersey children had been so horribly starved by their adoptive parents that their growth had been stunted. When authorities rescued the child found in the dumpster they believed he was about ten years old as he was just four feet tall and 45 pounds. He was 19.
Fortunately, the story had a good ending as the children were taken away from the abusive parents. Three of the four were fostered and eventually adopted by James and Amber Parrish.
“We flew them out, brought them to the park, sent them to Disneyland for the first time,” Joe told me.
I asked who “we” was, assuming he was talking about his former team the Angels. I was wrong. Joe and his wife Shanel did it on their own.
Joe and Shanel were no strangers to giving back. They had done numerous charitable things in their baseball communities including hosting disadvantaged or sick children at their ballparks. They had heard about the story of the Parrish family in Joe’s final year with the Angels and decided that they wanted to give them a once in a lifetime experience. They have kept in contact with the family who were guests of Joe’s at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.
There was no press release about this. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known. Obviously this was about Joe seeing some old friends and giving them the opportunity to spend some time on a big league field and not drawing attention to himself. Still, as long as you know that Joe is left handed, has a home ERA of 0.94 and a road ERA of 12.54, a K/9 of 3.80 and a FIP of 5.03 you might as well know this too.
The Mariners have a good guy taking the mound Saturday in Cleveland.