HARRIS COUNTY – HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Biggio makes a difference through longtime relationship with Sunshine Kids

Craig Biggio is still making a difference. Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

It was a day filled with hugs and smiles.

A day to forget the hospitals and treatments, the pain and the fears that come with cancer.

A day to see old friends and meet new ones, to run the same bases their hometown heroes run and get a hit off of one of Houston’s favorite sons – Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.

Yes, it was the annual Sunshine Kids Party at Minute Maid Park, hosted by Biggio and his wife Patty. It’s a party they’ve been hosting for more than 30 years now and they probably will host for 30 more.

“It’s a lifetime commitment they’ve made to be here for the kids,’’ said Jennifer Wisler, Sunshine Kids director of children’s services. “ . . . I don’t know where we’d be without him. He’s been an incredible role model for family and friends.’’

The party started at a high school field, then moved the Astrodome. Now, it’s at Minute Maid, home of the 2017 World Champions.

Each year, the party fills up the second the RSVPs go out and each year the Biggio family is there to make sure these patients have a couple of hours where they can just be kids.

“These kids get to come out and forget about some of the things going on in their lives and just run around,’’ Biggio said. “They can get a good hot dog and a coke and enjoy themselves.’’

And relax.

This isn’t a day when the kids stand in awe of Biggio. It’s one when they greet him like an old friend.

“We’re family,’’ he said. “As much as they look at me as family, they’re family to me too. I love them to death.”

Biggio started this to honor an old childhood friend who battled cancer and it just took off.

“I got into this with the intent of having fun and seeing where it goes,’’ he said. “For they city to embrace the Sunshine Kids and have my teammates embrace it, it’s been fun, its been great.

“We count our blessings with it.’’

The Sunshine Kids do as well.

“It’s giving these kids the opportunity not only to get away from the hospital visits and thoughts of cancer, but to meet other kids who are also struggling with a cancer diagnosis,’’ Wisler said. “It’s knowing they’re not alone.

“And for the once in a lifetime part of it, they’re down here and playing baseball against their hometown hero Craig Biggio.’’

The interaction between the Biggios and the Sunshine Kids is amazing. Jillie started coming to the event when she was 15 and had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Today, she comes back to volunteer and help out other children battling a variety of cancers.

“I wanted to give back to the people who have given to me,’’ she said. “It’s fun running the bases and acting like an Astro.

“And I find Craig Biggio an amazing person. He really treats you like family. I really find that special.’’

Wisler said the only tough part of the day is knowing there are children who can’t be there.

“Sadly, we have kids who were too sick to make it here today,’’ she said. “It breaks your heart.’’

But for those who are here?

“It’s special to be around your best friends who know what you’re going through,’’ she said.

And to get a Hall of Fame hug, an autograph and a hit off one of your heroes.

For more information on volunteering with the Sunshine Kids or to make a donation, go to www.sunshinekids.org.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Let him cook! Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are studs. KPJ just signed a four-year extension with the team. Other guys like Jabari Smith Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and Jae'Sean Tate are really good pieces to surround Green and KPJ with. The only issue with this group: they're REALLY young! Tate is the elder statesman at 27 of the young nucleus. Most are barely old enough to buy a drink. Some still aren't old enough! They're a bunch of green bananas waiting to turn yellow to slightly brown and be ripe enough for consumption.

We need to give it time. Just like bananas, they take time to ripen. Coach Stephen Silas is known for developing young players. His most prized student is the star player for that team in South Oklahoma up 45. Number 77 for that team credited Silas with helping him realize his All-Pro potential while Silas was a part of the coaching staff there. To a man, all his former players credit him with being a positive influence on their careers. So why are fans in a rush to get rid of him?

When you look at the Rockets' record over the last few years, it's gross. Sure, they've been a lottery team the last couple of seasons, but that was by design. As part of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trades, they gave away pick swap rights. Had they not been that bad, they wouldn't have been able to draft Green or Smith Jr. Those two guys are building blocks for the future, along with KPJ. Giving those picks away would've put this team further down the totem pole of developing themselves into a contender. Losing pays off when you can hit on high lottery picks.

If you give a chef dirt, bread, ham, molded cheese, and spoiled mayo, can you expect anything else but a nasty ham sandwich? How about if the chef was given a steak that is almost rotten, potatoes with root growth, and spoiled butter? Could you expect a better meal than the sandwich? Yes! However, that meal may still cause a stomachache. Now, give said chef a full complement of gourmet groceries and guess what you'll get?

This is why I say let Silas cook. He's the perfect coach for this group of kids. He can teach them all the fundamentals of the game at this level and help them grow into their full potential. If there's a change to be made on the sidelines, move Silas into a front office role, but DO NOT get rid of him! Guys like him are too valuable. Why do you think Mark Cuban hated losing him, but knew he couldn't retain him because he had a head coach already? Cuban knew what he had in Silas and what Silas did for Luka Doncic. He can do something similar for the Rockets if given the time to work his magic.

Should Tilman Fertita find the need to move on, I'd look for a more experienced coach who can guide them from bottom of the playoff ladder into top four in the West and real contenders. For now, Silas is the head chef. Continue giving him the groceries he needs, and he'll continue giving these kids the lessons they need to develop. Changing the coach now could stunt their growth. Let him cook!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome