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Orioles host annual Christmas party

Orioles host annual Christmas party

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles who helped out at the team's 31st Annual Children's Christmas Party on Wednesday afternoon performed a number of tasks that earned an endless string of smiles from the kids from Lakeland Elementary School.

But the children also discovered how to make the players smile. Just ask Jeremy Guthrie.

The Orioles right-hander stayed very busy in the opening part of the party by serving pizza, Tater Tots and many other treats as the children ate lunch. That's when one of them suddenly decided to give Guthrie a mini-pep talk.

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"I know you, you're Jeremy Guthrie," the child said. "You'll have a better year next year."

Guthrie laughed.

"Thank you," he said.

The smiles of the children -- plus the players -- lit up the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor on a cold day. Those Orioles -- past and present -- who came to the event wore their home white jerseys with names and numbers on them, making the kids feel special throughout.

Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Chris Ray, Chris Tillman, John Shelby, Scott McGregor, Larry Sheets and others hung out with the kids for about two hours. They served them food, played endless types of games and just talked, giving them a special time.

"It's a lot of fun," Guthrie said. "One teammate of mine used to say that one of the greatest things you can do as a baseball player is touch someone's life. That truly is the opportunity that we, as Major League baseball players, have, and it's fun to be able to use that to brighten someone's day just because of the job and the talent we've been blessed with."

McGregor has helped with this event several times and never tires of it. He has an attitude similar to that of Guthrie's.

"It's always fun," McGregor said. "It's just fun to put a smile on their faces. It's a good thing to do. Baseball's been very good to us, so it's nice to be able to give back."

The kids enjoyed getting the players to serve them their lunch, but the first-graders really loved going upstairs to hang out with the Orioles and play all kinds of games.

Guthrie showed everyone at the event that he's a big-time shooter, drilling a number of shots at a basketball game. Cla Meredith worked with a couple of kids at a bowling game for awhile. Shelby hung out with some children at a couple of different games.

The children were racing around asking players to come with them and not having any problems hanging out with Major League players. Simply put, the Orioles didn't intimidate them.

"I think they're just having a great time playing games," Bergesen said. "I laugh, seeing these kids and the smiles on their faces and how much fun they're having."

Cristy Sanchez, 6, formed a little bond with Ray a few hours before word got out that the right-hander might be headed to Texas in a trade.

She played games with Ray and talked for a while.

"He said that I kind of look cute," Cristy said with a smile.

Nichole Ruby is a first-grade teacher at Lakeland who came with the kids, and she wore a smile just as big as the children. Ruby had no trouble seeing how much this event meant to her students and knew it was something that they'll remember for a long time.

"I just think that it's great that the players take time out of their day to hang out with them," said Ruby. "I've had three kids come up and say this is the best day of their lives."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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