SEATTLE -- Rod Carew is a Baseball Hall of Famer, an MVP Award and Rookie of the Year Award winner. He had over 3,000 hits and he made 18 All-Star teams in 19 Major League seasons. But these days, his life's work isn't about baseball. It's about children.
Carew lost his daughter, Michelle, to leukemia in 1996, when Michelle was 18, and since she was first diagnosed, he has spent his life fulfilling his promise to her that he would do whatever he can to help children with blood diseases.
Yet another part of that promise came to fruition on Thursday, when Carew served as the keynote speaker at the luncheon for the 49th Hutch Award, which honors an MLB player who has demonstrated outstanding community service.
The Hutch Award, a national honor presented by the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been given every year since 1965 in honor of Major League player and manager Fred Hutchinson, who died of cancer a year earlier at the age of 45. Its list of honorees includes Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Pete Rose, Joe Torre, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, George Brett and Johnny Bench.
Carew and this year's winner, Angels outfielder Raul Ibanez, were the honored guests at the luncheon, and Carew's story about his daughter was particularly moving and captivating.
Carew spoke of how brave and unafraid Michelle seemed while facing the disease and fighting with everything she had, and how helpless he felt as a father when Michelle told him that she knew she would die.
But Carew felt there was a greater purpose behind all the suffering, and that's what eventually brought him to Safeco Field and everywhere else he goes in his journey to help others.
"I didn't lose my daughter," Carew said. "My daughter was put here for a reason … so that every child that's lived because of what I do when I travel across the country asking people like you to help, they're one of mine.
"It's the greatest feeling anyone can have, and my daughter taught me all about it. Until the day I die, that's what I'm going to do."
Carew marveled at the work the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is doing in not only using ground-breaking scientific knowledge to unearth treatments and milestones on the way to cures, but in the commitment in taking the research to the bedside, and how it helps families of patients live through the battle with dignity and with the tools they need to stay together for the long haul.
That's why he asked every doctor from Fred Hutch and every staff member from the center to stand up and be recognized.
"People talk about us as heroes," Carew said. "Baseball players, football players, hockey players.
"Ladies and gentlemen, these are heroes. They're the ones that change the lives of so many of us, and they will continue to do so because they care."