PGAAC, Rady: A perfect pairing

Photo: Drew Bowser, Daniel Susac (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Friday, August 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Perfect Game All-American Drew Bowser is a competitor, first and foremost, so when charged with the task of raising money to benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders he, of course, wanted to raise more than any other 2019 PGAA.

The intent wasn’t a show of one-upmanship or an effort to show-up the other All-Americans who are here this weekend for Sunday’s nationally televised 17th annual PG All-American Classic. No, this effort came straight from the heart.

“It means a lot to be here, especially because cancer research is very important to me,” Bowser said, speaking from the hospital on Friday afternoon. “About five years ago, my grandmother passed away from cancer and right now I have three really close friends to me who are dealing with it. I’m sure they’ll all get better soon but this is just really important to me.”

Bowser, an elite left-side infielder from Los Angeles who is about to start his senior year at Harvard-Westlake High School, raised more than $11,000 for Rady CH in the last four weeks, leading the West Team to a total of nearly $48,000 and counting.

With the fund-raising efforts continuing through Sunday, the East Team had raised nearly $30,000, meaning by the time the PGAAC’s first pitch is delivered early Sunday evening, the total should surpass $80,000.

“They came out really, really strong right out of the gate; they just seemed super committed to raising money for the hospital,” Jennifer Ford, Director of the Perfect Game Cares Foundation, said of the 2019 PGAA’s efforts.

“A lot of the money will go to kids they’ll never meet so it’s pretty remarkable that they stepped forward in their own communities for a children’s hospital that’s not where they live,” she added. “It just speaks volumes about how they were raised and what type of character they have.”

Looking at the bigger picture, since PG became a major Rady CH benefactor in 2006, the Perfect Game All-American Classic has now raised more than $1 million toward the effort to help eradicate pediatric cancer once and for all.

The Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Board of Trustees recently named Perfect Game as its Community Miracle Maker of the Year, and PG will be recognized for its efforts at a special event in San Diego on Oct. 17.

Ford said that while everyone in the extended PG family should be humbled by the recognition, this philanthropic effort was never undertaken with the expectation that such recognition would come. It was done for all the right reasons from the outset and right reasons are the kids being cared for at Rady.

“Certainly it’s wonderful to be recognized as such a long-term partner of such an important children’s hospital and as gratifying as that is, obviously the mission is to continue to raise much-needed funds,” she said. “We keep our eye on the prize about what really matters and it’s not recognition, it’s not trophies, it’s really knowing that we’re making an impact in the lives of children and families at Rady’s.”

This year’s All-Americans made the annual visit to Rady CH Friday afternoon where they were served lunch, given a tour of the facility and met with some of the young patients after taking part in a practice session and scrimmage at Petco Park in the morning. It was another delightful, picture-perfect day along California’s far southwest Pacific Coast, and everyone was upbeat and ready to enjoy the experience.

Mac Guscette, a PG All-American catcher from Nokomis, Fla., led the East Team’s fund-raising efforts by bringing in more than $4,500. When back home, he’s involved in what’s called the Little League Baseball Challenger Division, open to individuals from ages 4-18 who are presented with a physical or intellectual challenge.

“I think this is a cool experience,” Guscette said of the hospital visit. “I’ve worked with kids like this before and it’s cool to just see them happy. … With the Challenger Baseball League for kids with disabilities, I’m really big on that so I was trying to raise a lot of money for these kids because I know how happy they get when they (have a reason) to smile.

“Just being here, you get to see them smile and it makes them feel better, it makes you feel better; it makes everyone’s day.”

Several other players really went above and beyond in their efforts to raise funds. West Team member Daniel Susac (Roseville, Calif.) brought-in more than $8,000 and the West’s Michael Brown (Vacaville, Calif.) and Pete Crow-Armstrong (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) – a classmate of Bowser’s at Harvard-Westlake – were in the $4,000-$4,500 range.

On the East Team side of the ledger, Jack O'Dowd (Nashville, Tenn.) and Nate Savino (The Bronx, N.Y.) raised more than $3,900 and $3,200, respectively. Just about everyone on both sides seemed to really take the bull by the horns when it came down to confronting cancer head-on.

“I’ve been able to see my friends who are dealing with it and visiting with them, and they’re doing really well; they’re just being so strong,” Bowser said. “I was really motivated to go out (and raise money) because any donation really makes a difference.”

Ford believes the most amazing part of the hospital visit is the long-lasting impression it will leave on these teenaged athletes as they move into adulthood, parenthood and beyond. She pointed out that there are scores of former PG All-Americans who still talk about how impactful the Rady visit was on their lives..

“It’s really important for young people – really all people – to see children who aren’t blessed with health or athletic ability who can’t do the things that these (players) are used to doing,” she said. “I think it will create a givers’ heart in them moving forward, wherever they end up.”

Even while enjoying the Rady Children’s Hospital it was obvious that the players had also enjoyed their time on the field at Petco Park earlier in the day. On Friday, Bowser recalled being at the PG National Showcase in Phoenix in June with 300 other top prospects and just how special it was to one of the 52 that will play in Sunday’s Classic.

“With this visit going during (the Classic) when I’m out there on the field I can feel like I’m playing for the people that I know (battling cancer),” he said.

Guscette will also have the Rady visit on his mind when he takes the field at Petco Park on Sunday evening, Just like Ford said, those two or three hours spent at the children’s hospital will stay with these guys for a long time.

“I feel like since I was blessed to have (baseball) abilities that I needed to give back and make everyone else feel like they have a place,” he said. “It’s just such a great opportunity to be here; this is one of the best things we’ve done all summer.”

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