Anthony Rizzo replaces missing signed photo for young cancer patient

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo continues to be a hero and inspiration to so many people. (AP)

Anthony Rizzo and his Chicago Cubs teammates might not be defending their World Series championship right now, but that doesn’t mean Rizzo is taking a break from being a hero.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Rizzo has come through in a big way for Abby Schrage, a 12-year-old cancer patient who has long looked up to him.

On her window at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Schrage has always had a signed photo of Rizzo that she looks to every day as a source of inspiration. On Friday, that photo mysteriously disappeared. Her family and hospital staff didn’t know if it was stolen or somehow misplaced. Security footage was checked, but no answers came. All any of them knew was the photo was gone, and that Abby was disappointed.

“That picture meant the world to this little girl and I don’t know how valuable it is to somebody else,” Jill Schrage, Abby’s mother, told KMOV-TV in St Louis. “I just think if somebody did steal it, if they could return it?”

Fortunately, Abby’s disappointment wouldn’t last long. Once Rizzo got word of the situation, he immediately replaced the photo with another signed photo. Though this time he did one better, sending a signed jersey with it.

(Schrage family photo)

Abby received the original signed photo along with a personalized letter from Rizzo in June after she finished her second round of chemotherapy. In it, Rizzo opened up about his own battle with cancer. She was surprised by Rizzo’s genuine kindness then, and even more so by his gesture now. Her mother couldn’t have been more thankful for both acts.

“That is so incredibly sweet of him. It just makes me think even higher of him. I’m amazed our story reached him and that he took the time to reach out to us,” Schrage said. “He’s just trying to put a smile back on our girl’s face.”

The Chicago Sun Times also has a fantastic story on Abby Schrage’s battle and how her connection with Rizzo has grown despite them not having a chance to meet yet. It’s well worth reading.

Anthony Rizzo has done so much for charitable organizations and for cancer awareness. More than we could possibly cover here. But it’s the personal connection he’s made with so many kids fighting the battle he fought that truly stand out. He always reminds us what it means to be a real hero and a real inspiration, beyond anything that ever takes place on a baseball field.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!