Congressman Bill Young recently selected James Shields and his wife, Ryane, as 2010 "Angels in Adoption" for their outstanding contribution in support of adoption. Angels in Adoption, a program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, provides members of Congress the opportunity to honor someone from their district that has made an extroadinary contribution on behalf of children in need of homes. Past recipients have included First Lady Laura Bush, Bruce Willis, Al Roker, Patti LaBelle and Jane Seymour.
James and Ryane donated a luxury suite at Tropicana Field, known as the Big Game James Club, to Eckerd Youth Alternatives, which serves as the lead agency for community-based child welfare, overseeing the local foster care system. In addition to the suite, children in the Big Game James Club have had the opportunity to meet James on the field before games. James and Ryane also contribute time and energy to the Heart Gallery to support foster children finding "forever families."
James Shields opened the Big Game James Club this season for Eckerd Youth Alternatives and the Heart Gallery of Pasco and Pinellas Counties. The club was formed to give local foster kids a club to be a part of during the summer months. The club house was a suite at Tropicana Field where the kids came to watch the Rays play. There were five teams made up of approximately 50 children who rotated games throughout the summer months. The club was able to provide a stable environment for these children, where they were able to meet new friends, talk about baseball, and create new memories.
Foster care and adoption are issues close to the Shields' heart. The Big Game James Club creates normalcy and a sense of stability and belonging for foster children served by Eckerd Youth Alternatives. In addition to the suite, each team had the opportunity to be James' guest on-field during Rays batting practice. During batting practice James and several other Rays players and coaches met the groups. Centerplate, Tropicana Field Concessionaire, provided food and beverages all season long for the club members. The children were grateful for the ballpark experience, especially the sweet treats they received!
"I always talk to these kids when they come in," said Shields, obviously looking forward to the suite getting busy. "A lot of them, it's their first game."