Before Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez made his arrival at the inaugural All Ellis County prep sports banquet, the baseball icon visited the neonatal intensive care unit at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
And though not even the tiniest of Texas Rangers gear could fit some of his newborn fans, it did not stop Rodríguez from admiring the strength of the babies and their parents.
"Our babies are our MVPs — our most valuable princesses and princes," said Juan Fresquez, president of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. "With the help of their parents and our amazing nurses, we thought it would be fun to dress them up for the baseball legend's big visit."
In a dimly lit room, newborn babies too small to go home rested in incubators and in the arms of enthusiastic parents. One-by-one, Rodríguez greeted patients and heard from several parents of twins.
Later Tuesday evening, and between taking photos with Ellis County's top athletes, Rodríguez recalled the hospital visit.
"There were a lot of twins there — three families," he said at the Waxahachie Civic Center. "It was fun to be there and see them with the jersey on and the moms. I [had] seen one without a mom, but they told me the mom has another twin that left the hospital yesterday."
Rodriguez was in the area to speak at the All-Ellis County prep sports event, hosted by the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror at the Waxahachie Civic Center. It recognized outstanding student-athletes and coaches from 19 schools across Ellis County and in 20 sports.
Rodriguez, who was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 on his first ballot, used Tuesday evening's opportunity to speak to the over 630 parents, student-athletes and community members in attendance about the importance of education, determination, teamwork and respect for one's self, family and team.
But on Tuesday afternoon, he used his status and platform to bring a little joy to families who needed it most.
One family amongst the three sets of twins, Brandon and Haley Nelson, were overjoyed when the baseball icon entered the room.
Their twin boys, Cade and Karson, donned Rangers red onesies and opened their eyes just enough to catch a glimpse of the hall-of-fame baseball player.
"It's rare that we get to sit with them at the same time, so we have to do one at a time," Haley explained. "So this was the perfect time to pull them both out."
The twins were born four weeks early, and while in the womb, one baby acquired nutrients from the other. Observing the infants, one was noticeably larger.
The Nelsons estimated the little ones would require another four weeks in the NICU, which would put them at full term.
As Rodríguez was photographed with the couple and their newborns, Haley thought, "I need to call my brother." The couple agreed seeing Rodríguez at the hospital made the stressful situation a little easier.
Then there was Alex Shaugger, who sat patiently in her chair holding her newborn son, Greyson, as she admitted to being from New Jersey. She birthed her little boy at 30 weeks and was one of the youngest in the room.
Shaugger assured her seven-week-old child will be reminded of the memory as soon as he can understand that an icon visited him.
Taylor Bishop, of Midlothian, tapped on the nose of her 35-week, four-day-old son, Martin, hoping he would open his eyes to catch a glimpse of the famous baseball player.
Since Bishop was 10 years old, she had attended Ranger baseball games and was positive her son would attend his first game soon. In the meantime, Bishop visits the hospital throughout the day for all of Martin's feedings, which is every three hours.
"At first he had jaundice and was on the jaundiced light for a few weeks," Bishop explained. "He likes to fall asleep when he eats so you can tell that he doesn't ever want to wake up, but he is learning how to eat. They said it takes time, and once he learns to eat, he will be able to go home."
After Rodríguez visited with patients, a crowd of nurses gleamed at the MLB Hall-of-Fame catcher. Rodríguez took his time with the hospital staff, hugging each one and signing baseballs or whatever they could get their hands on.
Rodríguez even signed several Texas Rangers hats, and baseballs for families in advance.