Craig Biggio was sure of where he was going when he chose baseball. Nineteen seasons with the Houston Astros later, his decision has long since been proven right.

But Biggio was a bit more cautious when he sought a path to help others once he was lucky enough to make it to the Majors in 1988.

"I wasn't sure," said the still-plucky second baseman, whose helmet is always the filthiest in the game. "When you're a younger player, you don't want to jump into it. The older players say don't jump into a charity, wait, take a little time and then obviously if something comes about that you have a belief in and feel strongly about, go ahead and do it."

Once that calling came, Biggio became one of the biggest backers of The Sunshine Kids, a support group for children with cancer and their families. He had a personal motivation to do so.

"I got introduced to cancer at a young age," Biggio said. "A good friend of mine lost her son at age 10. I was probably 14 at the time. It was rough. I understood, but saw how difficult it was for them."

The departure of the Astros' chief Sunshine Kids backer opened the door for Biggio.

"When Larry Andersen left -- he had brought those Sunshine Kids out, which are cancer survivors -- I didn't want to see it go away," Biggio said. "I jumped in, and it's been a great story ever since."

Biggio began a golf tournament to benefit The Sunshine Kids. Now in its 14th year, the tourney has raised $2.1 million.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd raise $100,000, let alone $2.1 million," Biggio said. "We're doing pretty good. People in Houston backed me and support me, and I'm very grateful for that.

"I've been there almost 20 years, and it's something the community understands. They understand I'm not going to put my name to anything and if I do, I have a belief in it. It's one of the biggest fund-raisers the city has, and I'm very grateful for their support."

Astros owner Drayton McLane, who has a special, two-way loyalty to Biggio, has helped with another facet of The Sunshine Kids, turning Minute Maid Park over to Biggio and Co.

"My wife [Patty] and I bring about 100 kids and their families out to the park," Biggio said. "I pitch to every one of them, let them run around the field, feed them, sign autographs and give them a goodie bag on the way out. It's the day I love the most. It's the most fun.

"Can you imagine being a little kid growing up and being able to run around on a big-league field? It's something Drayton and I have been able to work out, to give me the stadium for three hours one day a year. To see the smiles on their faces, it's unbelievable."

Biggio's cancer fight covers almost all of Houston medical centers. Everyone knows him in town, and he'd like to know as many people as possible in return.

"I'm not partial to anyone," he said of the Houston-area hospitals. "I know a lot of doctors working in all sorts of buildings and wings."

Visiting sick kids can be nearly traumatic for some athletes. Biggio recognizes that and is glad he has the fortitude to put aside his own emotions to brighten up the days of seriously ill children.

"It's not easy to do," he said. "Everyone's different. If guys are not comfortable doing it, I don't blame them. It's not an easy thing to do. Some guys are really good at it. It's a trait that's very hard to do. I'm proud to be in a fraternity [of pro athletes] with all the charitable stuff we do."

-- Red Line Editorial