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June 16, 2003

Omaha, Neb. – Monday may have been an “off” day for the USC baseball team as far as playing goes at the 2003 College World Series, but the team stayed relatively busy throughout the day. The morning began with breakfast at the Double Tree Suites, site of the team’s headquarters. We noticed that a few more Gamecock fans had arrived, as many of the LSU fans who were staying at the hotel were checking out Monday morning.

* The team received a special treat Monday morning when it visited the Children’s Methodist Hospital in Omaha. The team split into two groups, with one group visiting children on the fifth floor and the other group visiting children on the sixth floor. The hospital was a state of the art facility, and had just been opened for two years. It held 144 beds for children, ranging from infants to 18 years of age. The children were being treated for serious illnesses. Many of them were battling cancer.

* The players interacted with more than a dozen of the children. They signed baseballs and spoke with the paitents and their families. One of the little girls, a six-year-old by the name of Kerrigan, was especially fond of the team and followed them down the hall in her night dress and bunny house slippers.

* The players stayed at the hospital for more than an hour. Needless to say, it was a special visit for all those involved. “This is the highlight of many of these children’s stay at our facility,” said Dr. Rob Harding. “They love it when one of the teams from the World Series comes by. You can see the excitement in their faces.”

* Demetric Smith, USC’s senior first baseman and designated hitter from Rock Hill, S.C., said that a visit like this is the least the team can do for those young people who are suffering with illness. “I’ve always liked to be around kids,” said Smith. “Young kids are willing to listen to you. It’s neat to watch some of these kids listen to what we have to say. We may spend 60 minutes here today, but for some of these kids, it’s a lifetime of fighting the disease. There is life beyond sports. It’s important that we take time away from our sport and try to provide these kids with an encouraging word. It’s the least we can do. We’re blessed to have the ability and opportunity to play ball. These kids didn’t choose to be here. You can tell by the smiles on their faces that they enjoy us being here today.”

* Before the team left, one of the young patients, a five-year-old boy by the name of Charlie, took his turn pitching to USC catcher Landon Powell in the lobby of the hospital. Charlie was evidently a Texas fan, as he wore his Longhorn hat on backwards. USC second baseman Kevin Melillo acted as if he was at the plate and Charlie reared back and threw a fastball, hitting Melillo in the back. Kevin instantly sprawled to the ground and the lobby erupted in laughter.

* The team finished up their scheduled activities with a 90-minute workout at Bellevue East High School in Omaha. The team worked on bunting and then had batting practice. The Gamecocks appeared ready to take on Stanford in hopes of avenging Friday’s opening round loss. Would history repeat itself and would the Gamecocks advance to live another day? We’ll find out on Tuesday. South Carolina vs. Stanford in an elimination game, Tuesday at 2 p.m. (eastern).