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April 30, 2010
Wakefield, Buchholz are all aces as the first Jimmy Fund Co-captains

Red Sox pitchers Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield were announced as the 2010 Jimmy Fund Co-captains. (photo by Aaron Washington)

Red Sox pitchers Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield were announced as the 2010 Jimmy Fund Co-captains.
(photo by Aaron Washington)

Last Thursday night, Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz struck out 10 batters in a game against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. The next morning, he and fellow Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield signed up to help strike out a far tougher foe – cancer.

Buchholz and Wakefield were less than a mile up the road from Fenway in Dana-Farber's Red Sox Gallery, where they were officially announced on April 23 as the first Jimmy Fund Co-captains. In this role, the duo will be ambassadors for the Dana-Farber charity, raising awareness and building support for cancer care and research throughout Red Sox Nation. They will also lend their support to Jimmy Fund events, visit adult and pediatric clinics, thank donors, and more.

"I'm excited by this responsibility and commitment," said Wakefield, a 16-year veteran of the Red Sox, during the ceremony. "I've often said how special it is to be a member of the Red Sox because of the passion New Englanders feel for baseball. It's the same way with the Jimmy Fund. Every time I walk out to the mound and see that Jimmy Fund emblem on the Green Monster, I am reminded of the special role the team has played in helping fight cancer since Ted Williams visited with patients at Dana-Farber."

As the 2010 co-captains, Wakefield and Buchholz are continuing a connection that goes back nearly 60 years, during which the Red Sox have been unequalled champions in the fight against cancer. The Red Sox adopted the Jimmy Fund as its official charity in 1953, and since then, the two organizations have established a deep bond – unlike any other between a professional sports team and a charity. The Red Sox have teamed with the Jimmy Fund to save lives, seek cures, and dramatically change the quality of life for adults and children facing cancer in New England and around the world.

Wakefield and Buchholz pose with a patient in the Jimmy Fund Clinic after they were announced Jimmy Fund Co-captains. (photo by Aaron Washington)

Wakefield and Buchholz pose with a patient in the Jimmy Fund Clinic after they were announced Jimmy Fund Co-captains.
(photo by Aaron Washington)

The festivities on April 23 gave an indication of just how special a role these two can play. After being given baseball jerseys with "Jimmy Fund" emblazoned across the front by 1-year-old Aejay Jensen and Grace Camara, a pediatric and an adult patient at Dana-Farber, the players expressed their thanks and then headed up to the Jimmy Fund Clinic, where they met with and autographed baseballs for patients. Such visits are a welcome sight for families like the Jensens, who came to Dana-Farber after Aejay was diagnosed with neuroblastoma last summer while still less than six months old.

"He's on a five-day course of chemotherapy this week, so this has been a wonderful diversion for him," said Aejay's father Erik Jensen, who videotaped as his wife, Becky, held up their son between Wakefield and Buchholz during the ceremony. "He's usually fussy during a chemo week, but not today. We hope he won't remember much about having cancer, but we want him to have memories of this."

Continuing commitment

Both new co-captains have done their part for the Jimmy Fund in the past. Wakefield visits with clinic teens when they attend spring training and a Red Sox road game each season, and has participated in several WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethons. In 1998, he started the "Wakefield Warriors" program, through which patients from Dana-Farber and Franciscan Hospital for Children visit with him and watch batting practice before all Tuesday games at Fenway Park. After the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, it was Wakefield who brought the coveted trophy to Dana-Farber for pediatric and adult patients to admire.

Buchholz, who served as this year's honorary spokesplayer for Dana-Farber's Rally Against CancerSM fundraiser, is thrilled with his newest role. "Being involved with the Jimmy Fund is an honor for any Red Sox player, as we are all aware of the long-standing relationship," said Buchholz. "I feel extremely fortunate to be part of this tradition and will do what I can to support Dana-Farber's important mission."

Institute President Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, who introduced Buchholz and Wakefield at the ceremony, said that the Red Sox-Dana-Farber relationship "has made both organizations better." One person who knows that from both sides is Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, who is a two-time cancer survivor treated at Dana-Farber.

"There is nothing else we do with the Red Sox that we are more proud of than this," Lucchino said as little Aejay Jensen, held by Wakefield, reached for the sparkling 2007 World Series ring worn by Buchholz. "We're committed to continuing and expanding the relationship."

– Saul Wisnia
saul_wisnia@dfci.harvard.edu