Eight-year-old girl to throw out first pitch at Round Rock

Heart Foundation and Express team up for special appearance

By Round Rock Express | April 20, 2007 4:37 PM ET

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Despite a failing heart, 8-year-old Shannell Rodriguez will walk to the pitcher's mound at The Dell Diamond on Sunday, just days before undergoing an operation which could save her life.

Rodriguez, who is scheduled to receive an open-heart operation next week, will be on hand, along with her host family, to throw out the First Pitch before Sunday's 2:05 p.m. game between Round Rock and Oklahoma.

Rodriguez was diagnosed with a rare heart condition three years ago in her home country of Belize, but was not able to receive the necessary treatment to save her life. In stepped the HeartGift Foundation, which has helped save the lives of more than four dozen children since being founded in 1998.

"We're extremely excited to be working with such a wonderful organization" said Round Rock CFO Reese Ryan, who spearheaded an effort to get the Express involved with the foundation two years ago. "HeartGift is such a great charity, not only for all of the lives it saves, but also for the quality of life it ensures while helping these kids."

Thanks to HeartGift, Rodriguez was flown to Austin and met with local physicians at the Children's Hospital of Austin. Those physicians -- including Dr. Kenneth A. Fox, Dr. Steven Metcalf and Dr. Karen L. Wright -- have volunteered their time and efforts to help save Rodriguez.

While in Austin, Rodriguez has been staying with a host family. Gail and Scott Hamilton, along with their two sons, have helped support Rodriguez and will continue to look after her when her surgery is complete.

Last summer, the Round Rock Express welcomed 10-year-old Roberto German to The Dell Diamond after his successful operation. German, a Dominican Republic native, was treated through The HeartGift Foundation for a ventricular septal defect and pulmonary stenosis.

Since its inception, the HeartGift Foundation has served 50 children from around the world. More than 100 volunteers have worked to build a bridge of hope and compassion for the families that the program has served. The foundation aims to help 12 children each year.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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