Bloomquist gives back to community
D-backs infielder inspired by young visitor and his friend
When Willie Bloomquist considered his free-agent options a year ago, he decided that you can, indeed, go home again.
Bloomquist had spent six seasons in Seattle, a couple of more in Kansas City and some time in Cincinnati.
"I was lucky," he said. "I played in three great cities."
Now, this baseball handyman, who has logged time at every position except pitcher and catcher, is with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He had played his college ball at Arizona State and lives in Scottsdale. It seemed the perfect fit. And as part of his commitment to the community, he and his wife Lisa set up a foundation.
"We wanted to give something back," Bloomquist said.
The couple became interested in the Phoenix Children's Hospital, and Bloomquist arranged a program where he would host a child at one game during each D-backs home stand, providing premium tickets and a VIP tour of the field and clubhouse, including a chance to meet and greet Arizona players.
"With all they go through, I wanted to give kids a chance to enjoy a night at the ballpark on us," Bloomquist said.
One of the youngsters that visited Bloomquist at the park last summer was Abe Speck, an 11-year-old who brought along his friend, Max Marangella. Before one game against the Giants last June, Bloomquist signed a bat for the boys and took them around the field. At one point, Speck asked Bloomquist for a favor.
"If you hit a home run tonight, will you point to me in the stands?" he said.
This was a tall order. Bloomquist is not a power hitter. In nine Major League seasons, he had never been a long-ball threat. Steal a base? Sure. Make a big defensive play? No problem. But hit a home run? That's a little more complicated. What's more, two days earlier, he had been in a major automobile accident and was lucky to walk away with only a few bumps and bruises.
And now, Bloomquist was being asked to imitate Babe Ruth.
"I told Abe, 'I've got 14 career homers. I probably won't hit one.'" Bloomquist said. "I don't do that."
But young Speck was insistent.
"Well, if you do, point to me." he said. "I have a feeling you will hit one tonight."
In the third inning, his second at-bat in the game, Bloomquist was facing Madison Bumgarner, one of the young stars of the Giants' staff. "He doesn't give up a lot of homers," the D-backs hitter said.
He did this time.
Bloomquist's drive made it into the first row of the left-field bleachers. As he circled the bases, he had trouble holding his emotions together.
"It was a pretty cool thing to have happen," he said.
And when he crossed home plate, he looked directly into the seats and pointed to where Speck was sitting, as if to say, "This one's for you, buddy."
Hitting home runs on request from sick children is the stuff from which Babe Ruth's legend was constructed. The Babe was the master of the dramatic moment. Bloomquist isn't accustomed to that sort of thing.
Since then, Bloomquist has launched the Abe and Max Fund at Phoenix Children's Hospital, named for his two pals and designed to provide funds for new electronics and games for patients battling various ailments.
Then there is the matter of Bloomquist and home runs. He had a couple of more after the one he hit for Speck last season, matching his single-season high of four. He finished 2011 with 17 career home runs.
"I'm still about 700 behind the Babe," he said.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.