Visits to a hospital tug at people's heartstrings, even on the patients' best days.

And even when the visitors are Major League Baseball players, as Mike Redmond can attest.

Redmond, the Twins' backup catcher, spreads goodwill to hospitalized cancer patients -- both children and adults -- through Red's Rally Caps, which he founded when he played for the Florida Marlins. He created the program in honor of his father, Patrick, who succumbed to stomach cancer at age 67 in 2000.

"Obviously, I wanted to do something to honor him and to be able to show support for people who are going through chemotherapy," said Redmond, who just completed his second year with the Twins. "I know what my dad went through. I know how tough it was."

"It was actually pretty emotional the first time I did it because it brought back so many of those memories," the veteran said. "I really felt it helped me to heal a little bit. I knew my dad would be proud I was doing that. On the other hand, it's kind of tough. We're so blessed as baseball players to be out here and do what we do."

Redmond, along with his wife Michele and teammates distribute adjustable baseball caps each year to the patients, their family members, the doctors and the nurses. The players, including mascot T.C., sign autographs and pose for photographs.

Redmond makes about four appearances during the season. He has visited the St. Paul location of Children's Hospitals and Clinics, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., and Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., among others.

"I went and visited hospitals, mainly just for the kids," Redmond said. "But then I realized that adults are battling the same thing. I did it for everybody, people that were in the hospital receiving chemotherapy and even people who would write to me or the club. I sent them a hat, people who needed a lift."

He redesigns the caps yearly. This past year's caps were navy, and the front featured Red's Rally Caps in white script and a baseball with the team logo.

"When I give a hat to even the guys on the team, they understand that they know somebody that's been affected by cancer," he said, "and they know what they're going through. Even the guys on the team understand what it stands for."

Redmond also participates in activities with the patients. He played bingo with youngsters last year. Many were in one room, yet those confined to their rooms were able to play by watching TV and calling in scores.

"We bring T.C., and they love him more than they love us, which is fine," said Minnesota infielder Nick Punto, who was present on bingo day.

Punto said none of his relatives have had cancer. However, he embraced the chance to join Redmond's initiative.

"You can see how moved [the patients] are by the fact that we're there," Punto said. "Yet we're so moved by the fact that we get to meet those kids. It's rewarding for both."

Redmond has not had functions to raise money for his program, though that is a possibility because he said, "I'd love to expand."

In the meantime, the hospital visits inspire the patients and their support circles.

"That's the best part about it," Redmond said, "just to see their reactions."

-- Red Line Editorial