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Before big game, Correa celebrates fan's birthday

HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa turns 21 on Tuesday, but before he celebrated his own birthday, he made sure to commemorate a new friend's special day first.

On his way to the ballpark before Monday's 6-3 win, Correa stopped off at Houston Christian School, where he surprised Astros fan Neil Kerrigan, and wished him a happy 18th birthday.

Correa first met Kerrigan a few weeks ago when he was at Minute Maid Park to watch batting practice, as part of his birthday celebration. Correa asked Kerrigan, who is suffering from a brain tumor, when his actual birthday is.

Tweet from @HCHSAthletics: Thank you to @TeamCJCorrea for coming to Houston Christian for Neil Kerrigan's birthday!

"He said, 'Sept. 21,'" Correa recalled. "I said, 'I'll never forget your birthday.' He said, 'Why is that?' I said, 'Because my birthday's the next day."

Correa sensed Kerrigan didn't take his promise to remember his birthday too seriously, so he decided to take it a step further. Correa got a cake and delivered it to the high school, while Kerrigan and his friends were eating lunch.

Kerrigan had no idea Correa was planning to show up.

"When he saw me, he was like, 'What is going on?'" Correa said. "His family was really happy. His siblings were just telling me how much they appreciate the fact I was able to go there and bring him a cake and sing Happy Birthday. It was a pretty special moment, not only for him, but for me as well."

The Astros ran a happy birthday message to Kerrigan, from Correa, on their ribbon board during the game Monday night.

Correa also tweeted out a photo of his cleats, on which he wrote "Neil" on one shoe, and the initials to Stand Up To Cancer, one of MLB's main community partners.

Tweet from @TeamCJCorrea: I stand up for Neil! My spikes for tonight and birthday present for @KerriganNeil #Inspiration #courage

For Correa, a rookie who has emerged as one of baseball's top young stars three years after he was selected No. 1 overall by the Astros in the Draft, taking a few minutes to reach out to a young fan facing enormous challenges is simply part of what it means to be a professional athlete.

It's a practice he plans to continue throughout his career.

"I came from nothing," Correa said. "I came from working my way to where I am. I know how it feels when there's someone you admire do those kinds of things for you. Every time I can put a smile on a kid's face it means a lot to me. That's what I will work for the rest of my career, to be a good player and a good citizen as well."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.
Read More: Houston Astros, Carlos Correa