Flag down Jay Gibbons in the Baltimore Orioles locker room and ask if he gives back to the community.
Gibbons responds in the affirmative. But then he points over to a familiar face in the middle of the locker room. Talk to that man, Gibbons suggests. He really gets to the heart of Baltimore with his good works a lot better than I can, Gibbons says.
And so you find out about an astounding story from a plucky Oriole named Brian Roberts. The quietly personable 29-year-old has become one of the most productive second baseman in the American League. But if the truth be told, a couple of decades ago, playing in the Major Leagues seemed the furthest of possibilities for Roberts.
"I had open-heart surgery when I was five," said Brian, the son of former University of North Carolina baseball coach Mike Roberts. "That's when my involvement with the Children's Hospital began. In 1982, going through the operation and recovering was very different. It took a longer time to recover. That's where my passion started. It's just kind of blossomed from there."
It all culminated in a special event last August at Baltimore's ESPNZone. Naming the event "Brian's Bash," Roberts raised more than $100,000 for the University of Maryland's Hospital for Children.
"Brian's Bash" supplemented Roberts' regular support of the hospital. And his ESPNZone event was the third in which he participated at that popular bar/eatery. Roberts had returned to Baltimore for the Orioles' annual holiday party for children at ESPNZone.
"I visit monthly to take toys and gifts to the kids," he said. "They have a really good neonatal intensive care unit. We visit anybody who wants to be seen.
"Anytime you can raise money for the hospital, they can always use it for better care. They said mine is one of the only fund-raising events they had all year."
Roberts always is willing to talk to ill children in relating his own past health challenges and providing hope they can live normal lives.
"Obviously it depends on what they're going through," he said. "Some kids are going through things [tougher] than what I went through. You don't really know what the outcome is going to be. You just try to give them a ray of hope and try to give them a feeling people care about them, even while they're going through a difficult time."
Roberts wishes he had a lot more time to help others through his own foundation.
"I do a lot of different things: Boys and Girls Clubs, Fellowship of Christian Athletes," he said. "There are a lot of things we try to incorporate. You don't do it for any reason but to make a difference in people's lives. We have to sift through requests and do things that are more worthy."
Helping ill children recover both physically and mentally is about as worthy as you can get. Brian Roberts has walked in their shoes, and he won't ever forget the struggles. He wishes the same success on the kids he visits as he has enjoyed.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.