The Razorbacks visited the Children's Hospital & Medical Center located in Omaha, Neb. following practice Wednesday. The team split into groups of four or five and visited various rooms and spent time with patients, giving away signed Arkansas baseballs and posters and high-fiving some of the kids as well.
A group consisting of first baseman Dominic Ficociello and closer Barrett Astin stopped in a two-year-old boy's room. The boy, Cooper DeWitt, has been undergoing chemotherapy and Cooper's father said the baseball team's presence gave them joy in a tough situation.
"We've been in the hospital a little over 24 hours and Cooper doesn't have much to do," Justin DeWitt said. "He's still waiting for his chemo to finish and stuff, but to see him with a smile on his face and see him excited and get these posters means a lot. Just to see the enjoyment he gets out of it changes things for us a little bit and it's nice to have something fun like that."
"Seeing them come here and smile gives me a lot of respect for them," DeWitt said. "Athletics are one thing and life is another. Those things have to mix sometimes, but you also have to understand both of them and you can tell they do when you see the enjoyment they get out of being here.
"It's awesome that they love giving back like that."
Arkansas pitcher DJ Baxendale said he was particularly touched by the way kids were grateful for the opportunity to see the team, despite some life-threatening circumstances.
"It's definitely eye-opening," Baxendale said. "Some of these kids are fighting hard for their lives and they're tough kids. Getting the chance to come in and interact with them, see them smile and laugh and their eyes light up by seeing some new faces is really special for us."
While the kids were overjoyed to see the Razorbacks, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said the players also had a lot to gain during the experience.
"It's a great experience for our players to be around this type of environment just to realize how fortunate we really are," Van Horn said. "We had some times to give back a little bit and I've been told that having athletes come by and lift them up is something the kids really enjoy and I thought it'd be good for our players.
"This is a lot more important than what we're doing by playing baseball and trying to win a championship."
Dominic Ficociello and the Arkansas baseball team enters the Children's Hospital & Medical Center.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn gives a high-five to four-year-old Brady Luke.
Joe Serrano plays foosball with Brady.
Arkansas players spent the afternoon signing baseballs and posters for the kids.
Photos by Marc F. Henning