CHICAGO – He has the last name to match the wisdom to know the difference between an extended journey to the majors and a young life taken too soon.
“I got to meet a little boy named Braxton through our media guy at Memphis. He just went up to me and said, ‘We’ve got a kid coming from St. Jude. Do you mind taking him through the clubhouse and during batting practice just kind of being with him?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.'”
Before landing with the Cubs two years ago, Patrick Wisdom was in the Rangers and Cardinals organizations. Memphis is home to St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate and to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where the then 25-year-old first round pick met six-year-old Braxton Fuqua.
“He was going through some brain cancer, facing chemo and all the treatments St. Jude offered. Just being able to provide some positivity, some joy and being around the guys, I think brought a lot of joy to him.”
When Braxton succumbed to the disease just two years later, Wisdom knew their relationship would stay with him forever, inspiring a need to give back. He designed a line of T-shirts, hoodies and autographed trading cards through his website with portions of the proceeds benefitting the valiant efforts of those at St. Jude.
“We’ll start with this one – the North Side High Fives. It’s after me and Willie, our third base coach, high five on a home run celebration.
“I wanted to do something team-oriented too with the Cubs here in Chicago, being able to spread that but also provide something for St. Jude. It just kind of sparked. I had a friend who was a St. Jude ambassador. He reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, they’re looking for somebody in Chicago. Are you up for it?’ I’m like, ‘Absolutely.’ Once the first domino fell, everything came to fruition. I’m just grateful for it.
“It’s just nice to kind of still provide that awareness in his honor.”
Leading the Cubs in home runs again this season certainly helps move some of that merchandise. Even though the losing’s been tough, as the trade deadline approaches, Wisdom is hoping he’s found a long-term home here on the North Side for the organization that gave him a chance to be an everyday player.
“I love it here in Chicago. The organization’s phenomenal. The fans have been tremendous and my teammates are wonderful to be around. I love coming to the ballpark every day – to be around them and to play in front of these great fans.”
While there’s reason for Wisdom to never forget his time in Chicago, no matter how long it lasts, he’ll have an everlasting memory of a brave boy who taught him lessons no one else might have.
“Perspective. Life is precious and it’s out of your control.
“Just to be so little and go through something so big, it’s gut-wrenching for me to see because I have little kids, as well. Just knowing the kids are so helpless, to see them going though that – it tugs on your heart. I wanted to provided awareness for what St. Jude does.”