Rice baseball players surprise girl who went viral for watching them from hospital room

Members of the Rice baseball team found out about Jaelyn Kirby's new-found fandom and rewarded her on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 22, 2024
16-year-old becomes instant Rice baseball fan from her hospital room
Jaelyn Kirby, admitted to Texas Children's Hospital for Marfan syndrome treatment, was able to watch the Rice Owls play baseball from her room.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Often, hospital patients look for anything to take their minds off why they're there. For Jaelyn Kirby, that meant simply looking out the window.

"I had no idea this would happen," Jaelyn admitted to ABC13 on Wednesday. "This is all surreal."

The 16-year-old has a rare genetic condition called Marfan syndrome. Jaelyn was recently taken via ambulance from East Texas to Texas Children's Hospital. She has spent quite a bit at Texas Children's, but for the first time, her room overlooked Reckling Park - home of the Rice baseball team. On Tuesday, the Owls hosted Sam Houston.

"Once we saw a baseball game outside, we stopped thinking about it, and we were all happy," Jaelyn said of the welcomed distraction for her and her family. "We actually got to laugh with each other for the first time in three weeks."

Photos of Jaelyn watching Rice from high above were shared on social media by her family. The pictures have more than 75,000 views. Members of the Rice baseball program took notice, too.

ABC13 was the only media outlet inside the hospital when three Rice baseball players - J.D. McCracken, Kyte McDonald, and Parker Smith - stopped by to meet Jaelyn on Wednesday. The players dropped off jerseys, hats, and autographed baseballs to whom the Owls call their good luck charm. You see, Rice's first win of the season came with Jaelyn looking on.

"It makes you really think about and be grateful for what you do have," Rice pitcher Parker Smith shared. "They were saying they haven't been outside in a couple weeks. Anything we can do to help, it's great for their family."

"I've been a hardcore Astros fan my whole life," Jaelyn admitted. "Now I do have a favorite college baseball team, and it's definitely Rice."

The meet-up took place early in the baseball season, giving Jaelyn plenty of time to root for her Owls. What's more, February is Marfan Awareness Month.

"We have a really comprehensive team to care for kids with Marfan syndrome," Dr. Shaine A. Morris, medical director of cardiovascular genetics at Texas Children's, noted. "We can diagnose it at birth. They have it all the way through the course of their lifetime and have to deal with a lot of different issues."

Marfan syndrome is a chronic disorder Jaelyn will forever navigate. But this recent hospital stay also provides her with a memory of a lifetime.

"I can't wait to come back here," Jaelyn said, smiling. "Not as a patient - but as a fan."

The family told ABC13 they plan to attend Rice baseball's March 2 game vs. Stanford. They'll cheer on the Owls after participating in The Marfan Foundation's Walk for Victory at Houston's Discovery Green.

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