In the commercial, Andrew Giddens is looking around an empty Tropicana Field and is startled when Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir suddenly walks up from behind. That’s how it happened in real life, too.
Giddens was at the Trop on Feb. 3 to shoot a commercial with Kazmir for the Children’s Dream Fund’s annual fundrasing auction next month. The 13-year-old Bradenton resident stood on the ball field marveling at how big the Trop appears when empty when, lo and behold, one of his two favorite Rays (Evan Longoria is the other) was standing behind him.
“That was so cool,” Giddens said.
Giddens wheeled around and gave Kazmir a hug.
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“That was pretty cool,” Kazmir said.
It is hard to tell who was more impressed with whom: Giddens, who dreams of being a baseball player, or Kazmir, who was glad he spent the day with Giddens shooting and reshooting scenes, eating pizza and playing catch.
“It was fun,” Kazmir said. “I was just happy to be a part of it. It was special to me, it really was, more than any other commercial I’ve done.”
With the help of chemotherapy and radiation, Giddens beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was detected about this time last year.
“So far, so good,” Giddens said.
The Children’s Dream Fund sent Giddens and his family to New York last August for a Yankees game and made Giddens a Tuesday’s Child, which enabled him to visit the field at the Trop during batting practice before a game with the Yankees on Sept. 2, meet the players and throw out the first pitch.
Giddens also was picked to place the game ball on the mound before Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, which he punctuated by pumping his fists over his head as he stood on the mound.
So, Giddens is familiar with the playing surface at the Trop.
But this trip was a little intimidating, he said, because he was going to star in a commercial with one of his favorite players. He didn’t have any lines, but still, “it was awesome,” Giddens said.
Janet Odioso, special events coordinator for the Children’s Dream Fund, said she didn’t look very far when searching for someone to be in the print and TV ads for the auction that takes place March 20 at the Trop.
“Not only is Andrew an adorable, darling boy, but his dream is baseball,” Odioso said. “You should have seen him throw to Scott. He’s got a nice arm on him.”
The commercial calls for Giddens, frustrated at the IVs required for his treatment, to walk out of the hospital and make his way over to the Trop. There, he takes off the bandana he wears to hide his bald head. (Giddens’ hair has grown back, though his mom, Helaine, shaved it the night before the shoot.)
Kazmir appears out of nowhere and hands Giddens his Rays cap. The words “Sometimes the best medicine is a dream” appear on the screen.
Kazmir said he was eager to do the shoot because his mom is a breast cancer survivor.
“I kind of felt touched being there and meeting him and seeing what was going on with him. I can relate a little bit,” Kazmir said. “Chemo is no joke. Just seeing him go through chemotherapy and bouncing back from it, it’s really tough, especially for a young kid to go through that process. It was special to me.”
Kazmir and Giddens found a case of baseballs and played catch on the field.
“Real major league baseballs,” Giddens said. “And we got to throw them around like they were nothing.”
“The kid’s got an arm, a real good arm, actually, for his age,” Kazmir said.
Giddens tried to impress Kazmir with his ability to throw a curveball. Kazmir showed Giddens how to grip and throw a change-up.
“He picked it up pretty quick,” Kazmir said. “After a while it was like the bottom was falling out of it.”
Then Giddens and Kazmir sat in the stands, just the two of them, and Kazmir told Giddens about his childhood in Houston.
“We talked fishing and about growing up,” Giddens said.
The print and TV ads will begin appearing the first week in March.
This is the 16th year for the Children’s Dream Fund auction, but the first time it is tied to the induction and award ceremonies for the Ted Williams Hitters’ Hall of Fame inside the Trop. Odioso expects the auction to draw between 800 and 1,000 people and raise close to $150,000.
Giddens will be on hand to talk about his ordeal, his recovery and his dream of playing big league baseball.
He might even mention his new prized possession: the hat Kazmir gave him during the shoot.
“It fits good,” Giddens said. “He doesn’t have a big head.”