The Florida State baseball team watched with anticipation as 5-year-old Mason Prodel swung his toy bat at the ball carefully pitched to him in the doorway of his hospital room.
Swing and a miss, swing and a miss. But he was determined.
He pushed up his glasses and swung again — a hit. Mason sent the ball bouncing into the hallway of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. The team members who had gathered behind him in the doorway cheered along with nurses and staff members in the hallway. Mason beamed.
Mason, of Elkhorn, is waiting for a heart transplant to treat a congenital heart condition. He was one of more than 30 kids the Florida State baseball team visited with Tuesday at the Omaha hospital. The team is in town for the College World Series.
Sign up for the Live Well Nebraska newsletter
Get the latest health headlines and inspiring stories straight to your inbox.
Head coach Mike Martin said it was the second time in four years that the team has “had the pleasure of visiting.”
“I think it’s one of the most meaningful, memorable things that our young men will ever experience,” Martin said.
The team visited the day after a Monday night loss to Michigan. Florida State is tentatively scheduled to face Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Wednesday in an elimination game.
Pitcher Gage Hutchinson, who showed off his origami skills for a few kids, said the experience is irreplaceable.
“I thought it was an incredible experience, just to go in, hang out with those kids and brighten their day a little bit,” Hutchinson said.
The team greeted Hunter Griffitts, 11, and his mom, Jessie; dad, Eric; and brother, Cooper, with smiles and questions about Hunter’s favorite sports and TV shows.
“It was really cool,” Hunter said, smiling and holding the baseball signed by the team.
Hunter was being treated for what he called “gunk” behind his eye that was making him see double. Dad said that what started as a sinus infection led to cellulitis, a bacterial infection, that might keep Hunter in Children’s through the weekend.
The Griffitts family, from Omaha, have never been to a College World Series game, but Jessie said they’ll try to get ESPN on the hospital TV to watch Florida State’s Wednesday game.
Children’s spokeswoman Sarah Weller said CWS teams have visited Children’s for years and the doors are always open to the teams.
“We know that this is an exciting time for our community and that there are children and families who are hospitalized who might feel like they’re missing out, so this is a way we can bring that sense of excitement and community into the hospital,” Weller said.
Left-handed pitcher Jonah Scolaro said it also puts things into perspective.
“What we go through is nothing compared to what they’re dealing with,” Scolaro said.