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Arizona teen wins Breaking Barriers essay contest

MLB.com

MIAMI -- When Anna Howe received a call from Sharon Robinson at school, she returned to her classroom and didn't tell anyone.

It turns out Howe was named the grand-prize winner for the Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life essay contest, writing about the struggles of dealing with esophagitis, a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the esophagus.

MIAMI -- When Anna Howe received a call from Sharon Robinson at school, she returned to her classroom and didn't tell anyone.

It turns out Howe was named the grand-prize winner for the Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life essay contest, writing about the struggles of dealing with esophagitis, a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the esophagus.

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Selected from thousands of entries submitted by students from across the United States and Canada, Howe was an honored guest and part of a pregame cerermony at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Marlins Park on Monday.

"She's expressive, she's fun and she was telling me when she went back to her class she didn't even want to talk about it with any of her classmates," said Sharon Robinson, daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and MLB's educational programming consultant. "I think she was blown away by the call. We just loved connecting right away. It's as fun for us."

The Breaking Barriers educational program, in its 21st year, is designed to teach students in Grades 4 to 9 about the obstacles faced by Jackie Robinson as he broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.

Howe, a rising fifth grader from Tucson, Ariz., is a D-backs and Dodgers fan. While sitting in a suite with her family and younger brother, she hoped to meet Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager.

"Leading up to it has been surreal," her mother said. "This has been amazing. From when Anna called me at school to say that she won the grand prize to now is fun."

The 10-year-old, who sings the national anthem at University of Arizona games, found out about the contest from her tutor. When she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian.

Despite the challenges of her condition, Howe keeps a positive mind-set because "that's how everything will turn out if you think positive."

"Whenever I'm sick, I think that other kids are more sick than me and that I should be lucky and also that they should be lucky that they're alive and doctors are helping them," Howe said. "They should just be positive and confident about everything. Some kids aren't very sure, and I like to reassure them that it's going to be OK."

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Christina De Nicola is an editorial producer for MLB.com based in Miami.