Saunders Suite Night another success
Angels pitcher hosts fourth benefit for children's hospital
ANAHEIM -- Soon after being called up during his rookie season a few years back, Angels left-hander Joe Saunders made a visit to the Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) with his wife Shanel.
It was an eye-opening experience for the two as they met with children at the hospital and realized the happiness they could bring the patients just by stopping by and meeting with them.
So after numerous hospital visits and the birth of their first child, a daughter named Mattea, last year, the couple decided they wanted to do more. With the Angels' help, they decided to create an event called Saunders Suite Night.
The event, which allows selected families to meet with Saunders on the field before the game and then watch the game in a suite, was held for the fourth time on Friday before the Angels' opener with the White Sox.
"It's something close to our heart," Shanel Saunders said of the event. "We love CHOC and we obviously love our daughter. We talked about wanting to give this experience to kids that maybe don't get this kind of experience. It was something we really wanted to do."
Saunders and Shanel actually approached the Angels' community relations staff first about creating the event that benefits patients at CHOC.
"They came to us really wanting to do something and asked about what they could do," said Angels community relations coordinator Lindsay McHolm. "So we've never had an event like it since I've been here. It's a new thing."
On Friday, the children and their families actually met with John Lackey on the field before the game as Saunders started against the White Sox. Lackey commended Saunders for his work in the community after taking pictures with the children and signing autographs.
"It's a really cool thing Joe does," Lackey said. "It's so important to give back. Playing baseball is cool, but it's even more fun to bring a smile to someone's face."
Patrice Poidmore, who is the director of special events for the CHOC Children's Foundation, also lauded Saunders for his involvement with the hospital.
"He comes and spends hours with the kids and plays games with them," Poidmore said. "He's so amazing. We love him."
The event is also special because it allows the families to enjoy themselves at the game while getting to meet Saunders and his family.
"I think this is awesome," said Chris Montes, who came with his brother Kenny and his family. "It's so nice of Joe and his family. We're big Angels fans and have never been in a suite, so it's really cool."
Part of the reason why the event is such a success is because it allows the children to have fun without thinking about anything else.
"They're able to forget their illness for a while and then to be able to go on the field and then sit in a suite and watch the game -- they're in heaven," Poidmore said. "We're so proud to be affiliated with the Angels and Joe."
And while Friday's event is scheduled to be the last one this season, Shanel Saunders said she hopes it becomes a common event in the future.
"Hopefully, we'll able to do it more," Saunders said. "We'd love to have the suite all the time and host kids throughout the season."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.