Photo: (Perfect Game)

PGAA's rally around Rady

Jeff Dahn

Published: Friday, August 10, 2018



SAN DIEGO – By being invited to participate in this weekend’s Perfect Game All-American Classic, Derek Diamond is able to cement his already strong association and love for two prominent San Diego institutions: Rady Children’s Hospital and the Padres’ Petco Park.

Diamond, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-handed pitcher from the nearby San Diego County city of Ramona, was loving it Friday morning that he was not only going to be able to play in Sunday evening’s nationally televised PGAA Classic at Petco, but he was also able to raise funds for Rady, a place whose doctors saved his younger sister’s life.

“I’ve been dreaming of being a part of this since I was 10 years old, when I was coming out here to watch it when I was little,” Diamond told PG Friday morning. “I never really thought I’d be out here but I’ve played baseball my whole life and never stopped doing what I was doing, and now I’m here and it’s a blessing. And with Rady’s, two birds, one stone, a lot of fun; a great week(end).”

Diamond was speaking from the playing field at Petco right after the East and West teams – he is, obviously, on the West squad – had completed a practice session and were preparing to play a five-inning scrimmage.

The baseball activity was the first of the weekend for the All-Americans – they’ll have another practice at Petco Saturday morning – and came right in front of the players’ visit to Rady Children’s.

Diamond had a conflict and was unable to attend the visit but he did take part in fund-raising efforts leading up to the Classic. Carol Damon-Scherer, the Vice President of Development for Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation, addressed the players right after lunch was served on the hospital grounds, and announced that the West team had raised $27,179 and the East team $26,135 with two more days to go.

It’s important to keep in mind that Perfect Game donates all proceeds generated from the game to Rady Children’s, as well, and adds even more as part of its extensive philanthropic efforts across the country, not just in San Diego.

And those totals are impressive, to be sure, but the “big picture” numbers are even more so. Since its inception in 2003, the PGAAC has now raised well over $1 million for use in the fight against pediatric cancer and since 2005, and more than $850,000 has been directed to Rady’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Padres legend Trevor Hoffman, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in late July and who has served as the PGAA Classic Honorary Chairman since 2011, praised the efforts of the players and the talk Damon-Scherer and others gave on the Rady grounds early Friday afternoon.

“I give a lot of credit to Carol (and other staff members) for giving a little bit of a pep talk ahead of time so that the kids realize that with all this fund-raising they’ve been going through, this is where it’s going to go; this is how it’s going to help,” he said. “… It kind of puts things in perspective for the (players) before they go and meet some of the other kids that are going through some tough times.

“It’s a great experience for the (All-Americans) and it’s something they’re going to look back on as their careers develop and go, ‘That was pretty special that we had the opportunity to do what we did in San Diego.’”

Diamond’s story is an interesting one. His younger sister, Lindsey, was twice diagnosed with tumors on one of her lungs, first when she was 11 years old and again when she was 13. In the first instance, according to her older brother, Lindsey was having trouble breathing and family members initially thought she had developed asthma.

They took her to Rady Children’s where doctors used a bronchial procedure that found that she instead had developed tumors in the lung; surgeons removed two of the three lobes of her right lung. After that surgery, she was progressing just fine until the problem reoccurred two years later.

Lindsey went in for a checkup and another tumor was discovered, but this time it was up higher and touching her trachea, again according to Derek. Consequently, doctors had to remove her entire right lung, but she is now living comfortably with just one lung as her 14th birthday approaches in just a couple of days.

“She’s had two surgeries (at Rady’s) and she spent a week there both times, but now she’s doing great,” Diamond said. “We had great experiences there, so Rady Children’s Hospital is just a great place.”

And Lindsey Diamond isn’t the only member of the family that has been treated at Rady. Derek has been treated there himself twice, both times for broken ankles when he was younger. He was thrilled to take part in the fund-raising efforts.

“Obviously, funds are needed in every part of life, especially things like hospitals and especially hospitals for children,” Diamond said. “Being able to be on the ground-level and make a contribution is pretty cool, and it’s something all of us had the opportunity to do.”

Hoffman feels like when an individual PG All-American raises money for the fight against pediatric cancer – what PG President Jerry Ford calls “The Cause” – it speaks volumes about the communities from which they come.

“They have a lot of support from their parents and grandparents and obviously their friends when they’re able to raise the funds that they do.,” he said. “For them to finally be here at this stage in their summer and to be able to see what those funds are going to be able to do is great.”

As for the baseball side of things, Diamond is super excited about being able to play in a game at Petco, something that he was given the opportunity to do with his team at Ramona High School a couple of times previous. It was the place where he watched his first big league game in person and said, “Petco Park, I think, is the most beautiful park in the country and every time being out here is amazing.”

“Everything about this week has been pretty crazy,” he concluded. “Playing at home in San Diego where I’m from and then with the connection to Rady Children’s Hospital where my sister has had two major surgeries and I’ve been treated there myself, it’s been a pretty awesome week.”

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