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Ventura joins child's Make-A-Wish performance

Ventura joins child's Make-A-Wish performance

Ventura joins child's Make-A-Wish performance
CHICAGO -- Prior to his Wednesday night performance in the 34th annual production of "A Christmas Carol" at Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago, Robin Ventura had no acting experience.

Not in high school, grade school or any other level. Well, there might have been one or two moments during his 16-year Major League career.

"Really, the only acting is when you strike out and you act like it doesn't bother you when you walk back to the dugout," said Ventura with a laugh, speaking in full costume to the media about 30 minutes before the start of Wednesday's show. "That's about as far as I go.

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"I think there will be a little bit of nerves of going out there and not having really done this before. Luckily, I have Emily."

The Emily spoken of by Ventura was standing next to him during the interview session, clutching the hand of the White Sox manager. And with all due respect to Ventura's acting chops, this night was all about the Chicago theatrical debut of this 9-year-old inspiration from the Mt. Greenwood neighborhood in Chicago.

Emily Beazley is a White Sox fan who was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Her wish is to someday be a star, maybe winning an Academy Award or a Tony, but on this night, it was all about her cameo in the holiday classic.

She played a character appropriately named Emily, while Ventura, not surprisingly, played the character of Mr. Ventura. They each had one line to speak in front of the large crowd.

"Today she said she might get founded, those are her words," said her emotional mother, Nadia, clearly beaming with pride concerning Emily's role. "This is one step in the right direction for getting founded.

"Everyone here has been so nice and they treat her as a celebrity. She's getting a taste of it. She's the queen walking by. It has been awesome. Just amazing, and she's so excited."

This special evening for a young girl battling an insidious disease was made possible by Goodman Theatre and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, marking their fifth consecutive year working together in this capacity. Emily and Ventura each wore specially made clothes for the one-night performance, and about the only drawback for the night was Ventura's wardrobe left him sweating in the middle of Chicago's mild winter.

Ventura originally received an e-mail from White Sox senior director of community relations Christine O'Reilly in regard to going on stage with Emily. They were part of the opening scene and then appeared together approximately 30 minutes later.

Upon receiving the invitation, there was no hesitation on Ventura's part to come in from California late Tuesday and leave early Thursday in order to share the stage with his new friend.

"Obviously Emily has a wish to be on stage, and the White Sox as an organization always jumped at the opportunity to help out," Ventura said. "So, it was a no-brainer."

"It's really cool. I like it. I was very excited," said Emily, who sings and dances but never on stage. "I couldn't wait for this day to come."

"Since she has been little, it has been her wish," said Ed Beazley, Emily's father. "She always wanted to be a star, and this has gone beyond our wildest expectations."

An exciting evening such as this one is something truly deserved by Emily, who has not had the easiest go of things in the midst of her expected 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy. Yet, it's hard to tell her apart from any other 9-year-old with a dream. She's understandably a little shy but well-spoken for her age, and smiles as if she doesn't have a care in the world.

Her mom told the story of Emily getting sick on the way into Wednesday's show because of the chemo and asking through tears if she could still go on. There was nothing stopping this little actress.

Nadia Beazley described herself as a crier and expected to shed tears of joy when her daughter walked on stage. She smiled and recounted a moment when she was crying earlier while doing an interview, only to have her daughter explain that it was OK for her mother to be a little emotional.

"She's my inspiration. She's my adult," Nadia said. "We switch places all the time. She's an awesome kid."

Not only did Emily get on stage, but she also received a signed No. 23 White Sox jersey from the White Sox. Ventura invited Emily and her family to enjoy Opening Day against the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field on April 13. Basically, Ventura can leave tickets for Emily now, and she can leave tickets for the White Sox manager when she makes it big in Hollywood.

Even without the acting, Emily already would be considered a bright shining star.

"Yeah, we've always done that," said Ventura of the White Sox commitment to giving back to the community. "Even as a player, when I was first here, it was always a priority. It has never stopped. Obviously this is a special deal."

"I always wanted to be in the play," Emily said. "I was like 'Oh, my.' And in a Christmas play, I was really excited. I was looking forward for this day to come."

"We were both raised diehard White Sox fans," Ed concluded. "And we weren't sure of the team at first when this was presented. Once they said White Sox, we were both ecstatic. Then we are both huge Robin Ventura fans. This is like a dream come true for her parents, as well as Emily."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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