Cancer patient with shaved head asks Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to autograph her scalp — and he does

Column: Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. was a big hit with a special fan

It is still Padres spring training and Fernando Tatis Jr. already has hit a home run with his fans.

Social media comments were wildly enthusiastic after the Padres posted a video of Tatis autographing the bald head of a San Diego cancer patient.

“I love him. Extend him to a lifetime contract,” posted Ryan.

“Build his statue,” noted Mike.

“Some moments are bigger baseball,” commented Gwenn.

“Beautiful stuff! I hope she gets well soon,” remarked Ben. The unidentified woman in the posted video is Gina Grosso, a 35-year-old speech pathologist, who lives in Hillcrest and works in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

She completed her first breast cancer chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 3. So she brought a hand-made sign with her to the Padres spring training game against the Cubs at the Peoria Sports Complex on Feb. 28 requesting that Tatis sign her head. She stood with fans lining the field as he walked on.

When the Padres shortstop walked by, he stopped to sign the baseball she handed to him. “I want you to sign my bald head,” she implored.

“Wait… Really?” he asked. Then he smiled, shook his head and obligingly wrote his name with a Sharpie above her left ear.

Gina Grosso, of San Diego, displays her baseball and scalp, both autographed by Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. at the Padres’ Feb. 28 spring training game in Peoria, Ariz.

“I made the sign the day before we left (for Arizona),” Grosso explained on Wednesday. “I’m a silly, jokester personality. You have to find the funny, and the good, and the happy when you have cancer, or it gets to be too much.”

Tatis was the first, but he isn’t the only VIP to autograph Grosso’s bald tête. She asked her Sharp Rees-Stealy hematologist/oncologist, Dr. Andrew Hampshire, to sign her head after her second chemo session on Monday.

Like Tatis, he agreed. “I’ve never been asked that before, and I have caused a lot of bald heads,” he quipped.

Several Padres fan have asked the Padres to make her a team rally girl.

Grosso is taking her good fortune to the next level. “I didn’t expect this much attention from it,” she said.

Along with the Padres’ post, other social media mentions of the signing were posted by ESPN, Major League Baseball and even by Tatis on his Instagram site. “Moments like this are the ones that give me energy to always bring a smile to everyone. She is a real fighter. God bless,” he wrote. Responses went viral.

Grosso and her graphic designer boyfriend, Jesse Rios, brainstormed about how to do something positive with this unexpected publicity.

Cancer patient Gina Grosso, 35, center, gets help shaving her off her long brown hair as she undergoes chemotherapy treatment at Sharp Rees-Stealy.

She recalled the popular ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS and a skateboard “shove it” challenge by a 68-year-old woman with cancer. They came up with an autograph-inspired “chemo_graph” campaign.

“I just started a (Chemo_graph) Instagram page and a Go Fund Me account,” Grosso told me Wednesday. “If I raise $5,000, wouldn’t it be amazing to give it back to cancer awareness?”

She wrote in her Chemo_graph Go Fund Me appeal: “What if something so simple as getting people to take power over their bald heads and have them signed could do some good in the cancer community.” In only one day it has raised $315 of her $5,000 goal, to be split among two cancer charities she picked and a third she has invited Tatis to select.

As for the prized Sharpie autograph, it disappeared overnight. “I was not expecting it to come off so fast,” she lamented. But she still has the Tatis signed baseball, displayed in a clear plastic box in her home.

This was the carnage that confronted musician Steve Poltz a few steps from his home in East Tennessee on the morning of March 4, 2020 after a tornado came through in the early morning hours. The former San Diegan’s own home was spared.


Storm aftermath: The devastating tornadoes that ripped through East Tennessee killing at least 24 people early Tuesday and turning houses into wood piles narrowly missed the home of folksinger/songwriter Steve Poltz.

The Canadian-born singer, who attended the University of San Diego, had returned here last weekend to perform concerts at the Belly Up and The Music Box.

“I had just gotten home from San Diego to Nashville and went outside — then the sirens went off. We ducked for cover and waited,” he posted on Facebook Wednesday morning. He and his wife, Sharon Daddi, took refuge away from their windows and huddled together in a hallway.

“We are ok. Utter devastation two blocks from us. Houses are completely destroyed. Our house missed the path. Our friends and neighbors have lost everything … We have no power or hot water but we are VERY VERY lucky compared to others.”

He described the aftermath in a phone interview. “The next morning I walked over there, and it looked like a war zone,” he said. The roof had been ripped off his go-to fast food place, Burger Up. The popular Five Points Pizza restaurant was badly damaged and a little clothing store called Molly Green was no longer in existence. Basement East, where Poltz has performed, also was destroyed.

He later learned that a bartender at the Attaboy Nashville lounge and the bartender’s girlfriend, a server at one of Poltz’s favorite eateries, both were killed by debris as they walked home together after work.

“It looked like a bomb went off,” he said. The tornado also destroyed the house of the sound engineer of his musician friends, The Wood Brothers. Fortunately, the sound technician had grabbed his wife and kids and taken refuge in the basement. They survived.

“We were lucky we got spared,” said Poltz. “Had we been three blocks over, we would have been wiped out.”

He has experienced several earthquakes in San Diego, but this was his first tornado. Poltz already has scheduled a small fund-raising performance at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge to benefit the storm victims.