The tough lefty on the mound and determined outdoorsman has a soft spot in his heart for kids and dogs.

Mark Buehrle has given no quarter on the mound for the White Sox, pitching for nearly a decade in a career highlighted by a World Series victory and a no-hitter. He's also a deer hunter in the offseason near his St. Louis-area home. But when the call comes to visit a hospital or donate to a no-kill animal shelter, he acts quickly.

"It's good to give back to the community," Buehrle said. "I love kids, so I'd rather go to a children's hospital or somewhere where there are sick kids. Just give them encouragement where they have cancer or have to have a couple of surgeries."

Buehrle's most recent visit was to the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. He spent 90 minutes visiting children and their families, and he's been told he has made a lasting impact.

"Whenever you have something like this, come to me," Buehrle said of his directive to the White Sox. "I didn't think twice about doing that. I've done it two years in a row. The nurses said, 'After you left, you should have seen the smiles on these kids' faces.' It kind of gives the kids a little motivation."

Like other big leaguers who make hospital visits, the assignment can be as tough as any in-game situation.

"Big time," Buehrle said. "It kind of gets to you. You see their moms and dads, and you put yourself in their situation. It gets you choked up a bit to see how these kids are."

Buehrle and his wife, Jamie, also offer support to no-kill animal shelters.

"We watch Animal Planet shows where we see sick dogs or dogs that can't be helped," he said.

Huge numbers of dogs are now being abandoned due to the nationwide recession, even being left behind in vacated, foreclosed homes. Buehrle advocates another course of action.

"Take it to a shelter that's no-kill," he said. "Other places, if no one claims it after two weeks, they put it to sleep. My wife's talked about when I'm done -- she'd love to start a place where we can take in dogs. We'd have to hire some people. She'd take all these animals in and not want to get rid of them, once they'd get healthy and available to adopt out. You see how attached you get to rehabbed dogs."

Buehrle owns two beautiful Vizsla Hungarian hunting dogs.

"We wanted labs, but they shed too much for a house," he said. "They're active. You throw the ball out to woods for them to retrieve. If you don't have a lot of time to play with dogs, they're not for you. Otherwise, they're great with families."

-- Red Line Editorial