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  • Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders hosts Mary Bridge families for game

    When Seattle Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders invited a group of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital patients and their families to attend a Mariners game, it couldn’t have come at a better time for 3-year-old Preston Baker and his family.

    For the Baker family, the game was a chance to relax and take a break after a difficult 6-month stretch this year that saw Preston diagnosed with Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome.

    The Bakers were among a group of Mary Bridge families invited to the game thanks to the generosity Team Saundo, a charitable foundation started by Saunders and his wife, Shanel. They provided a private suite, an on-field tour, and even bubble gum from the team’s stash in the dugout.

    Preston’s mom, Tabbitha Baker, shared this story about their experience:

    In April, we found out that Preston has Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome. We were originally seen in Seattle, where Preston spent a total of 20 days in the hospital in less than a month and a half due to his illness. After my husband traveling back and forth and switching with each other to stay with Preston, we had basically depleted our savings and asked to be transferred to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, since we live in Buckley and the travel time is much less.

    We had worked with some of the doctors from Mary Bridge while we were in Seattle and felt this was the best move for many reasons. We love Dr. Karyn Yonekawa and Dr. Susan Halbach! And all of the Mary Bridge nurses and Child Life staff are wonderful as well. 

    After having such a rough time at the start of Preston's illness and feeling like just any other patient in Seattle, it has been so amazing to come to Mary Bridge and to feel almost like family to these people who are taking care of our son. And they never leave out our other son Marcus, who is 5, when we come into the office for appointments.

    While at the Mariners game on Sunday, we got to sit in a suite -- something that we hadn't ever had the opportunity to do before and that in itself was amazing for us. We were provided hot dogs, salads, peanuts, popcorn and sodas. It was Boeing Kids Care day at the field, so upon arrival the kids all got a Mariners T-shirt and we were surprised again when we got Team Saundo T-shirts in the suite, as well as Kids Club back packs, hats, and lanyards!

    We then got to go down onto the field before the game began we met Joe Saunders, who was absolutely just wonderful with all of the kids! He took the time to talk with each child, shake their hands, slap high fives, and take pictures with each of them. Joe offered all of the kids bubble gum right out of the bucket that the Mariners themselves use, and sat with each of them in the dugout. Joe took pictures with each family, then did photos along the fence looking out on the field, and then more photos out on the field. He remembered the kids names and used them each time he spoke to them.

    After we were done there, we watched the game from the suite and at the 3rd inning, the kids were all surprised when the Mariner Moose came to the suite and took pictures with all of the kids. For Preston, getting to meet and take pictures with the Moose was by far his favorite part of the visit. At 3, he doesn't really understand that he met one of the players and got to go onto the field. I think for the most part, meeting Joe and being on the field was more special for the older kids and us adults. :)

    Even though the Mariners lost 7-1 to the Angels, it was one of the best experiences we've ever had at the game!

    Back in April we had attended a Mariners game about a week before Preston was admitted to the hospital for the first time and we had learned about his illness. It was a really good time for us. Preston had been sick (with Nephrotic Syndrome but we didn't know at the time) the week and a half prior but on that day, April 16 to be exact, he was feeling really good and we had lots of fun at that game. We had sat in the bleacher seats in outfield and snuggled under blankets to stay warm and just had a great time. Then a week or so later we were making our first stay in the hospital.

    Within the next month and a half, we stayed a total of 20 days in the hospital, possibly some of the most difficult days of our lives. After we got out of the hospital, things with Preston slowly started to get better, but we had to keep him on a strict very low sodium diet (you don't realize how much salt is in your diet until you have to really watch what you are eating, so that was definitely no picnic!), and six medicines per day, some two or three times per day, and the effects that the steroids have had on Preston's attitude and demeanor.

    And now we are coming to the end of his first battle with his illness and it felt to us like the perfect way to sort of end this first battle by attending another Mariners game -- sort of a perfectly imperfect little circle of this round of Nephrotic Syndrome and hopefully a sign for a much brighter future.

    We would not have been able to go to another game this year if it wasn't for Joe Saunders and Team Saundo's generosity and donation of the tickets to Mary Bridge and Preston's awesome doctors thinking of giving us this opportunity. We had an amazing time and couldn't be more grateful! I am so appreciative of how wonderful the staff there at Mary Bridge is and we loved this experience!

    Thank you,
    Tabbitha, Ralph, Marcus, & Preston Baker (and my niece Keira, and little brother Bradyn as well)

    Another Mary Bridge patient's mother added this note of thanks:

    “What an absolute blessing that was to be invited to take our children to such an awesome day of baseball. We were spoiled in our suite and had a GREAT view of the field! The day just kept getting better when we were able to go down to the dugout and meet Joe Saunders and hang out down there for a little bit! What an exciting day! The kids all were thrilled to be able to go and run the bases after the game. The staff at Safeco were fabulous! A huge shout out and thanks to Joe Saunders and Mary Bridge for the invite to the game. You all are super wonderful people. More people should have hearts that genuine and giving, imagine how different our world would be.”

    Posted on Sep 8, 2013 in Kids' Health