Biggio hosts golf tourney to help kids

Biggio hosts golf tournament to benefit kids

HOUSTON -- Long ago, the prior generation of Astros started a tradition that continues to this day.

It started with reliever Joe Sambito, who from time to time would bring The Sunshine Kids out to the Astrodome for a day of fun at the ballpark. When Sambito, who played for the Astros from 1976-84, moved on to the Mets in 1985, reliever Larry Andersen carried on the tradition of hosting the Kids at the Dome.

Andersen, as we all know by now, was traded to Boston in 1990 for that little-known third baseman named Jeff Bagwell. But the other side of the story is that a young catcher named Craig Biggio accepted the torch from Andersen and carried on the Astros' partnership with The Sunshine Kids, a support group dedicated to providing a variety of fun and enriching group activities, free of charge, for children with cancer.

At first, Biggio simply continued the tradition of bringing the Kids to the Dome. But over time, the involvement expanded to include fundraising, and on Monday, Biggio hosted the 13th Annual Sunshine Kids Celebrity Golf Classic.

All proceeds go to The Sunshine Kids, and including the record-breaking attendance at this year's tournament, the Golf Classic has raised more than $1.8 million since its inception in 1993.

"All the money is for the kids," Biggio said. "It's not about finding a cure for cancer. It's about their families, so they can take vacations as a group. They have fun. They go skiing. They go white water rafting. They go on a Harley Davidson ride.

"Being involved with these kids in general, being around them, just as much as I'm able to touch their lives, they've touched my life in turn. It's been a great relationship, being with these kids and being a part of this."

Biggio credited tournament coordinator Toby Holt with staying in contact with just about every sports celebrity in the city, many of whom participated in Monday's Golf Classic. The list of Astros was impressive: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Bagwell, Roy Oswalt, Brad Ausmus, Brandon Backe, Jose Vizcaino, Adam Everett, Orlando Palmeiro, Chad Qualls and Eric Bruntlett.

Former Astros were also on hand, including Terry Puhl, John Hudek and Brian Williams, as well as broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Alan Ashby and Larry Dierker.

The celebrity list was not limited to just baseball stars. Former Green Bay Packer Santana Dodson and former Houston Oiler Bubba McDowell participated, as did NBA Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy.

"This is a lot of money that comes in this way, and the only way you can get this done is from the loyalty of your teammates and the people in your community," Biggio said. "Obviously, $1.8 million is a lot of money in 13 years. It's something we're proud of. We're proud people will get behind us and support us."

   Craig Biggio  /   CF
Born: 12/14/65
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Said Clemens: "It's all obviously about the kids, and Craig's a big part of that. This is out of respect for him and what he's done in our community over the years. It's a great event and there's going to be some fun golf. Hopefully, I won't have to yell 'fore' too many times. We're out here to support him and the cause."

"It's a good day," Pettitte said. "I love playing golf, so you have a chance to play golf and be out here with the fans and some of the sponsors. It's a good day all around."

Bagwell, who announced on Sunday that he was undergoing shoulder surgery in early June, said he would have attended the Golf Classic even if he couldn't play. He decided to give it a go, considering golf is one of his favorite hobbies.

"I'm going to try and see how it is," Bagwell said. "I played in the offseason, but [the shoulder] wasn't as bad as it's been [lately]. It could be one swing, it could be three swings.

"I don't know what's going to happen. It's going to hurt, no matter what, it's going to hurt. It's just a matter of how much I can take today. This is a great event. Craig and [his wife] Patty have done a great job with this. The kids are great and it's just fun to be out here."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.