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Maddie and Flo: Field of Dreams for a Day

WooSox bench coach remembers the life of Maddie Schmidt with 2024 WooSox baseball card
July 8, 2024

If you’re a baseball fan, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve watched Field of Dreams a time or two. An old ballfield is a safe haven for those in search of the simplicity that playing catch with a loved one embodies. Though the memory lives on, some don’t have the

If you’re a baseball fan, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve watched Field of Dreams a time or two.

An old ballfield is a safe haven for those in search of the simplicity that playing catch with a loved one embodies. Though the memory lives on, some don’t have the opportunity to share in their nostalgia with that original partner––until they meet again.

Maddie Schmidt and her family were invited to Polar Park on May 1, 2022 for a day they would never forget. Maddie, 7, was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer that develops in the brainstem of children. Due to her tumor’s inoperability and fast-growing nature, Maddie’s prognosis was terminal.

Hoping for a day to spend with Maddie, the Schmidt family asked the WooSox for a few general admission tickets. Their humble request was granted––and the family received memories that money can’t buy.

Surrounded by her parents and two brothers, Maddie threw out the Ceremonial First Pitch––a perfect strike––to former Red Sox pitcher and 2004 World Series champion Bronson Arroyo. Afterwards, Maddie presented the WooSox lineup card to the umpires.

But before the pregame ceremonies began, Maddie had the time to make a few friends in the WooSox clubhouse. One of them was bench coach Jose David Flores.

“She came in with her family that day, and I was supposed to just get to meet them and make her feel good at least for that one day,” Flores said. “We knew that she was going through a lot of pain––pretty much throughout the course of the last year that she was able to live.”

Flores could empathize with Maddie, because he, too, was once told that he had cancer. During his annual physical examination prior to Spring Training in 2023, Flores had a perfect bill of health, except for one issue that required a few additional tests. One of them revealed a tumor in his bladder.

The Puerto Rico native underwent surgery to remove the mass shortly after, and five months later, was declared cancer free.

Before the final week of the 2023 season, Flores credited doctors for their diligence.

“There’s always a chance that it could come back, but at least I’m aware that it’s a possibility,” he said. “I’m just so thankful everything went the way it went and I’m able to be here with the club.”

Returning to the WooSox and doing what he loves helped save Flores––something he hoped to share with Maddie in their time together.

“We clicked really well,” he said. “She wanted to take fielding lessons with me, and I showed her how to throw the ball and catch ground balls.”

Flores is a baseball lifer, having played professionally for five seasons and spending more than 20 years as a coach or manager. Before being hired as bench coach of the WooSox in 2021, Flores was the Minor League infield coordinator for the Chicago Cubs, first base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, and third base coach for the Baltimore Orioles. He also managed in the Puerto Rico Baseball Federation––where he won four national titles with the Cidra Bravos––and served on the coaching staff of the Puerto Rico National Team.

With a lifetime of baseball experience, Maddie could take any instruction she learned from Flores on the baseball field as gospel. But those weren’t the lessons that truly mattered.

There’s not much one can do to ease the pain of the inevitable end––much less for someone who has an entire life in front of them. While it was only a day, Flores and the WooSox did everything they could to take the daily burden away from Maddie.

“Helping her forget about her pain and the struggles that she went through on a daily basis––that pretty much made the whole day,” said Flores. “Making her family actually feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

For a Sunday afternoon in May, the outlook didn’t appear so bleak. Maybe there was a light at the end of a tunnel. It’s the little things––like playing catch, spending time with family, and making new friends that matter, anyways.

Seven months later, on New Year’s Eve, 2022, Maddie lost her battle to cancer. While she is now in a better place, Flores is reminded of her every day.

“This is one picture that I really like––it’s actually my wallpaper on my cell phone.”

Not only is it Flores’ wallpaper, but it’s also the face of his 2024 WooSox baseball card. The WooSox bench coach made the special request to keep Maddie’s memory alive, and was fortunate to be granted approval by the Schmidt family.

It’s a small gesture, but a touching example of the inspiring impact Maddie had on Flores and the WooSox organization.

Though she’s passed on to a better life, the Schmidts continue to spread Maddie’s sparkle. The family began Magic for Maddie, a fundraising effort devoted to raising awareness for DIPG and providing scholarships for students who emulate Maddie’s spirit. The Schmidts hope to give children like Maddie a chance in the fight against DIPG and to keep her legacy of kindness, tenacity, and love alive.

As the WooSox and Schmidts continue their efforts in conquering cancer, Flores is reminded every day of the joy in Maddie’s eyes at Polar Park. For a day, baseball was the remedy to the bitterness of life. A few hours that were innocent and pure created a sorrowful, but heartwarming memory for a baseball lifer.

Was it a field of dreams?

“Totally for her,” Flores said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.”

For more information on Magic for Maddie, please visit: