The coronavirus pandemic interrupted spring training, shortened the Major League Baseball season, and added COVID-19 testing to the daily routine for players and staff. No way around it, the virus has been felt in every corner of the baseball universe.
Even umpires were not immune. The annual visit by the men in blue to Children’s National Hospital, where members of UMPS CARE Charities, took on a different look Tuesday when umpires Nic Lentz and Chris Segal conducted a virtual visit to let young patients and their families know they are not forgotten or alone.
UMPS CARE Charities delivered 100 Build-A-Bear furry friends and outfits, provided baseball-themed activity books and boxes of Crayons, and put squishy baseball-styled stress balls in the hands of patients. Then they hosted a Q&A session with the children and played baseball bingo.
The virtual visit coincided with Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. To date, UMPS CARE Charities has distributed more than 17,500 Build-A-Bear stuffed toys and outfits to children in hospitals across the United States and Canada.
“All of us at UMPS CARE Charities are so grateful that our longtime partners at Children’s National Hospital have been able to make this event possible during these challenging times,” said Jennifer Skolochenko-Platt, executive director at UMPS CARE Charities. “Even though our umpires cannot be there in person this year, they are excited they can still brighten the day for kids undergoing treatment in the hospital who really are in need of a smile.”
The visit to Children’s National Hospital marked the fifth virtual visit UMPS CARE Charities has made this year and the organization’s 172nd visit overall.
This year marks the group’s 10th anniversary of providing Build-A-Bear deliveries for kids in hospitals with its partner, Bristol Myers Squibb. Through annual grants, Bristol Myers Squibb has been supporting the UMPS CARE Blue for Kids hospital program and has had many employees serve as volunteers during visits.
Both Lentz and Segal have connections to the D.C. area. Lentz, a Michigan native, made his major league umpiring debut during a Nationals-Marlins game in Miami in 2016. Segal is a native of Fairfax, Va.