PHOENIX -- Brewers righty Braden Looper has simple advice for anyone out there struggling through the long process of adopting a child.

"Have patience," Looper said.

That virtue of Looper's has certainly been tested since the last time he threw a pitch in a meaningful game. First, there was the long, cold winter for Major League free agents that caught Looper, coming off two solid seasons as a starter for the Cardinals after eight years of quality relief, facing few options.

He finally signed with Milwaukee the week before pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training, but his official Brewers debut would have to wait. Looper strained a muscle in his side on Feb. 28 and is finally scheduled to throw a Cactus League pitch on March 26. That would leave him lined up to work the Brewers' home opener on April 10 against the Cubs.

The uncertainty, the down time, has offered a mental test for Looper. The saving grace is little Gracyn, the baby girl that Looper and his wife, Shannon, rescued from foster care in China.

"Patience has been the most important thing through all of it," Looper said. "It's all been worth it."

The Loopers have two biological children, 9-year-old daughter Toryn and 4-year-old son Braden. Sometime after Braden Jr. was born in August 2002, the Loopers saw a television program about the plight of young girls in rural China so often abandoned by their families because of population control measures in that country.

It touched them.

They entered the process in earnest in 2006 as Braden was beginning his first season with St. Louis. The Loopers talked at length with Albert Pujols and his wife about their orphanage in the Dominican Republic, but saw just as great a need in China. More than 5,400 Chinese children were adopted by American couples in 2007, according to Adoptive Families magazine, and 91 percent of those children were little girls.

"It was something my wife and I talked about and prayed about," Looper said. "And then after that we met about four different families that adopted from China. We took that as God talking to us, telling us it was the right thing to do."

Shannon Looper chose a faith-based agency in Denver but the process quickly became discouraging. Braden remembers getting periodic updates from the agency that included estimates about how long the process would take. Each time a newsletter arrived, the date was more distant in the future.

One year. Two years. Three years.

"There are so many families that want to adopt, and I don't know why they make it so hard," he said. "But it is."

One day, the Loopers learned about the Waiting Child Program, which connects parents with children with special needs. Five months later, and more than two years after they originally applied, the Loopers had a match. They flew to Beijing just days after the Cardinals' season was over, then traveled to Henan Province to meet their daughter.

Little Gracyn was 13 months old when she was delivered to the Loopers' hotel room. She would need surgery to repair a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and had been abandoned by her birth mother.

Years of work had gone into the moment, and Braden Looper thought it would be perfect. It wasn't.

"I had kind of expected that because of the things I had read," Shannon Looper said, "but she basically wanted nothing to do with us. We were new to her. We looked different, we smelled different. We were not familiar to her. She knew something big was going on."

It was tough on dad.

"You envision it being this great, peaceful, happy moment, and she was just screaming," he said. "Our daughter had been in foster care for a little while, and I think she had gotten used to it. She didn't want to leave because we were strangers to her.

"I mean, how realistic was it that she was going to be perfectly peaceful and happy? We had been told to prepare for a tough transition, but it was still difficult at first."

For the first few days, Gracyn bonded with her new dad. Since then, she's become a momma's girl.

There was still work to do. The Loopers remained in China and traveled to a series of cities to acquire the proper paperwork for their infant daughter. Then it was back to the U.S., where Gracyn underwent two surgeries in at Children's Hospital of Chicago to repair her cleft lip and palate. The family is together in Phoenix while dad gets ready for his season.

The experience has inspired Braden and Shannon Looper to help other families going through the process. For now, he's not sure if that means setting up a foundation working with an existing foundation or perhaps making anonymous donations to families to help cover the significant cost -- well over $20,000, Looper said.

The Loopers hope that their story inspires others to stick with it.

"Everyone has their own causes that they believe in," Shannon Looper said. "We've been on this trip, we've seen the kids who don't have homes. Nothing breaks your heart more than seeing a child who isn't cared for, just because of the situation they were born into."

"I've been so blessed, and not just in baseball," Braden Looper said. "I have this beautiful wife, a beautiful family, and to imagine little kids sitting over there in an orphanage with nobody really caring for them, it's just sad. We have decided it's going to be a big part of what we do from here on out."

Shannon Looper's advice to families frustrated by the adoption process was similar to her husband's: Be patient.

"Our daughter has blessed our family so much," she said. "If you're going through it, hang in there."