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Shields 'Big' in game of life with foster kids

Royals ace will host 250 children, families over five home games this season

KANSAS CITY -- When James Shields was first called up to the Majors by Tampa Bay, he was asked to do a public service announcement for the Heart Gallery, an audio and photographic exhibit that tries to match foster children to adoptive families across the country.

Since that humble start, he and his wife Ryane, a photographer, have adopted the cause and continued their work with foster children.

When Shields was traded to the Royals in the offseason, the organization approached him about an opportunity to continue his work with foster children in Kansas City and he readily accepted. With the support of Kansas City Power & Light, Shields will host 250 foster children and their families in the "Big Game James Section" over five games this season.

"My wife and I are very fortunate," Shields said. "We've had parents and we've had families and to see these kids that don't have families, and to hear some of their stories, it's amazing. It is very sad and if I can do anything to help these kids out, it is definitely something I want to do."

On Friday afternoon, surrounded by smiling children in neon green shirts that read, "Big Game James," he continued his dedicated work.

"It is a time to bring foster kids in to watch baseball games and really create memories," Shields said. "This is a great way to give them good memories, and hopefully they can have some fun times with their foster families."

On each night, a group of participants will sit in a reserved section, meet Shields, receive T-shirts, eat a meal from Papa John's Pizza and Aramark, and take home a backpack that contains coloring books, sunglasses and a baseball.

"This is very special to these kids," said Brenda Williams, who has been fostering children for 10 years in Overland Park, Kan. "A lot of times, they don't get an opportunity to come out to the ballgame. They are like the guests of honor here."

In the first of his five events, Shields hosted children from KVC Behavioral Health Care, Inc., on Friday, when the Royals played the Angels.

"We are just thrilled to have this partnership," said Emily Snow, director of child placing for KVC. "For a few kids here, this is the first baseball game they've ever been to. Another exciting piece about this is it gets out the word about the need for foster care, and the fact that kids in care are no different than any other kids."

Shields said his biggest hope was that he could give the participants a memorable experience that might help them down the road.

"As a kid growing up, I used to go to Dodgers Stadium and whenever I met a baseball player, I thought it was the coolest thing," Shields said. "These kids have gone through so many trials and tribulations in their lives, just to have one good memory could save them and help them become adults, men and women, and go to school. If I can do anything to help them out, that would be great."

Though Shields and his wife have done a lot for foster kids already, the Royals' ace is not satisfied.

"I think every Major League Baseball city could really benefit from it," Shields said. "If I could bring it into every city, I would."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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