HOUSTON -- The smile never left Craig Biggio's face, not even when a screaming line drive off the bat of a pint-sized kid dislodged his sunglasses from the top of his head. There was nothing that could dampen the fun on this day.
Biggio, the Astros legend, and his wife, Patty, hosted dozens of kids Wednesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park in their annual Sunshine Kids party. Children of all sizes got the chance to bat against Biggio and run the bases and the outfield of the ballpark, before being treated to lunch, an autograph and an Astros goodie bag.
"Look at the kids, look at the smiles on their faces," Biggio said. "That's what it's all about."
Biggio is the national spokesman for the non-profit Sunshine Kids, an organization that assists kids with cancer and their families. He wore the organization's sunshine pin on his cap during Spring Training games and regular-season batting practice throughout his career, and has been treating the kids to a party for more than 20 years.
"The Sunshine Kids is about trying to have fun," Biggio said. "We started this more than 20 years ago and did it at a park somewhere, and asked [former owner] Drayton [McLane] to do it at the Astrodome and it carried over to Minute Maid Park."
Biggio thanked owner Jim Crane, who attended the event, for allowing him to continue using Minute Maid Park for the party. Kids waited in line to take their hacks against Biggio, while others ran around the outfield or simply played in the infield dirt.
"These kids get an opportunity to run around Tal's Hill, swing at some pitches, run the bases and have fun, and that's what it's all about," Biggio said.
Misti Fregia brought her 7-year-old son, Rhett, to the party for the second time in three years, giving him a chance to put his troubles behind him for at least a day. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and a rare reaction to the chemotherapy caused him to go into liver failure. He'll need a transplant before adulthood, but that was the farthest thing from his mind Wednesday as he took some swings against Biggio.
"This is the one thing he's looked forward to every year since his diagnosis," Fregia said. "He's a typical little boy, loves to play in the dirt, loves to swim, loves to aggravate his sisters. This makes us not worry about everything that goes on for a day."
Biggio, who signed autographs following the party in FiveSeven Grille while the kids and their families munched on chicken tenders and cotton candy, said he considers each child part of his extended family.
"These are great kids, and I consider myself lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity to be around so many great individuals," he said.