Biggio class act on and off the field
Milestone shines light on achievements away from diamond
HOUSTON -- With one flick of the bat on Thursday night, Craig Biggio lined a 2-0 pitch from Aaron Cook to right-center field for his 3,000th career hit, potentially locking up his spot in the Hall of Fame and securing his status as one of the most beloved sports figures in the history of Houston.
For many baseball players, that would be enough. His legacy is set. He could ride into the sunset tomorrow and be remembered for generations to come.
Those on-field contributions, however, are only a small part of what makes him so special to the community. Amazingly, it's his work away from the baseball diamond -- most notably, his role with the Sunshine Kids Organization -- that sets Biggio apart from his peers and will ultimately define how he is remembered.
"I'm just doing the part I'm supposed to be doing," Biggio said. "I think it was an important night for everyone, for the Sunshine Kids and the organization [and] everybody involved.
"I've been involved with the Sunshine Kids for a long time now, and I love these kids. I consider myself lucky just to be associated with them."
Since the early 1990s, Biggio has actively participated with the Sunshine Kids, a support organization for children with cancer and their families. Each year, he hosts a baseball party at Minute Maid Park where more than 100 children with cancer play baseball with him. He also hosts an annual holiday party at the Sunshine Kids house in Houston, which the Biggio family helped restore and furnish.
In addition, his annual Sunshine Kids Celebrity Golf Classic -- scheduled this year for Aug. 9 -- has raised more than $1.5 million for the organization over the past 15 years.
"That's what separates him from a lot of superstars," first baseman Lance Berkman said. "Some guys don't want the responsibility of being a role model. They don't want to admit that they are a role model, whether they want to be or not. Craig takes that responsibility very seriously and I think he's done a great job in the community and making sure that he's given back to a town that's embraced him."
One particular member of the Sunshine Kids that Biggio has embraced is 15-year-old Frankie Velasquez. Biggio met Frankie when he was 6, and the two have kept in touch ever since. Fittingly, Frankie was on hand Thursday night to soak in Biggio's milestone moment.
"It's amazing to watch him with kids in general," Berkman said. "He's very good with children, and I think that's a gift that some people have it, and some people don't. And he definitely has a gift to connect with kids."
Biggio has received numerous awards over the years for his community service, including the 2006 "Heart and Hustle" Award, the 2005 Hutch Award and the 1997 Branch Rickey Award. He was also named one of The Sporting News' Good Guys in 2004 for his charity work.
But perhaps even more impressive is the example he has set within the Houston clubhouse on the importance of taking an active role in helping others.
"You kind of learn how to do things the right way through his example," closer Brad Lidge said. "You have to do things for the community and to help out people less fortunate. He's the guy people point to and say, 'Look at what he's done.' If you can follow his example, you've done something pretty good for yourself.
"[Biggio] gives you a good sense of where your priorities should be in this game. Everybody knows what he's achieved on the field is tremendous, but what he's accomplished off the field is more important to a lot of those kids."
Biggio, of course, is a role model for more than just the foundation. He's been a star with the Astros organization for two full decades, and was a critical part of the team's first postseason series victory and first National League pennant.
In his time, he's done more than merely collect 3,000 hits. Biggio has set an example through hard work and hustle, and has overseen a transformation from the Houston community into a true baseball town.
"We've made this a sports town here," Biggio said. "We've taken this city from loving their Astros to really loving their Astros. The expectations are to get to the playoffs and to get to the World Series again. When you have those expectations, you have a big following, and that makes you feel good."
Ben DuBose is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.