Cleveland Indians outfielder Yasiel Puig surprised children at a summer camp for terminally ill kids Monday, hoping to encourage them, but it was Puig who left the experience feeling uplifted, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Puig, who was in New York between series against the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, rented a helicopter during an off day and flew up to Camp Simcha in the Catskill Mountains at the request of a camper's grandfather, whom Puig knew from his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"My grandson actually asked me if it would be possible if Yasiel would possibly make a visit to the camp, and the kids would just go crazy if they saw him," said Irv Bauman, the grandfather of one of the campers. Bauman and Puig met at a Lakers game in 2013. "We'll ask him to do it on Monday on his off-day. Immediately, he says, 'Of course, I'll do it.' … He doesn't really know a lot about the Jewish heritage. From being with me, he's learning about kosher, religion, the songs he sang to them yesterday about thanking God for all the wonderful things that happen in life. He was so into it, it was amazing. It's hard to describe how into it he was."
Puig spent four hours at Camp Simcha, a fully kosher camp that seeks to "bring childhood back to children who lost it when they were diagnosed." The Major League Baseball star entered a room full of campers wearing a fake tiger's head, and the children reportedly erupted in excitement when he revealed his identity.
While he was there, he participated in camp activities with some kids, and then spent some time in the infirmary with another child who was too sick to do anything but rest.
"A boy started talking about baseball, saying 'I love the way you play. Keep going, fight,'" Puig said, according to MLB.com. "And I said, 'Oh, I'm the one coming here to tell you to keep fighting and everything will be fine, and you're the one telling me to keep going, fight and work hard' — and that made my day."
Puig tweeted that it was "one of the best days of my life" to spend time with the children at Camp Simcha.
"You are my inspiration and when I do good things on the field I will do it for you," Puig wrote.
Puig, who is Cuban, recently became a United States citizen. He defected from Cuba in 2012, enduring death threats and extortion attempts from the traffickers who got him to Mexico, where he established residency before signing a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.