Past health scares motivate Manuel's giving

Past health scares motivate Manuel's giving

Past health scares motivate Manuel's giving
PHILADELPHIA -- The people kept coming and Charlie Manuel kept shaking their hands, signing baseballs and posing for photographs.

Manuel regularly is the center of attention the moment he enters a room, but last week at the Four Seasons he was the center of attention for a specific reason. Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia named him its 2011 Humanitarian of the Year for his trips to Magee and his other charitable work, including his support of the Bethesda Project and Covenant House and the Phillies' projects supporting ALS research.

Manuel, 67, knows what it is like to be stuck in a hospital. He battled kidney cancer and survived two heart attacks, including a quadruple bypass.

"If I can make somebody feel good or feel better, I like that," Manuel said. "I remember when I was in the hospital. I remember how tough it was. I remember how long it seemed like I was in there. I remembered how I felt and how depressed you can get."

Manuel made his first visit to Magee in the summer of 2009, when he visited Jerry Casterioto, who is the father of Phillies director of baseball communications Greg Casterioto. Jerry had a double stroke while being operated on to remove a brain tumor, and suffered temporary paralysis below the neck. Jerry was in Magee for about two months before regaining his mobility.

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Manuel enjoyed his visit, which has turned into trips once or twice a year. He also visits other hospitals in the area, and veteran hospitals in Washington D.C., when the Phillies are in town to play the Washington Nationals.

He could see patients' eyes light up when he entered a room. They were Phillies fans, and the Phillies' manager was coming to see them.

It didn't take long for them to start talking baseball. The more comfortable they got, the more they asked him about his lineups, why he played certain players or why he didn't pinch-hit for a particular hitter late in the game.

Manuel answered their questions the best he could.

"Being manager of the Phillies is a good conversation starter," he said with a laugh. "It helps them relax and enjoy the moments when we talk baseball. Most of them will start talking to me right away. They love to talk about it."

Last week was the 24th edition of Magee's awards dinner, and Manuel is the second member of the Phillies to receive the award. The other was former Phillies catcher and broadcaster Tim McCarver.

Proceeds from the dinner, which Magee hoped would reach or exceed $175,000, will be used to create the Charlie Manuel Healing Garden on Magee's rooftop, which currently hosts a greenhouse for horticultural therapy, a patient resource center and a city streetscape where patients practice their mobility.

Studies have shown healing gardens can help shorten the length of hospital stays, reduce the amount of pain medications needed to treat patients and improve the mental well-being of patients and their families.

Manuel is thankful he played a part in that.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.