WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball's partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation has resulted in hundreds of kids meeting their sports heroes in meaningful ways, creating memories that will stay with them forever.That includes the festivities this week in Washington, D.C., where five kids and their families are being treated to a
WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball's partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation has resulted in hundreds of kids meeting their sports heroes in meaningful ways, creating memories that will stay with them forever.
That includes the festivities this week in Washington, D.C., where five kids and their families are being treated to a VIP tour of the many events that comprise the annual baseball bonanza also known as All-Star Week.
The tour includes watching all events from a luxury suite at Nationals Park, and that's where Commissioner Rob Manfred visited with the group during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday.
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He talked ball with the kids, and made a prediction for Monday's T-Mobile Home Run Derby (8 p.m. ET on ESPN): The Cubs' Javier Baez is due for a good night at the plate.
"We'll see how I do tomorrow night," Manfred said. "I think Javy Baez will put on a great show. He may not win it, but he'll put on a great show for you."
Manfred's visit was one component of many exciting activities planned for the kids and their families. The fun kicked off at a reception dinner on Saturday, hosted by MLB and the Nationals. The kids were gifted with personalized jerseys, bats and duffel bags, and they mingled with three prospects who played in the Futures Game -- Hunter Greene of the Cincinnati Reds, Jo Adell of the Los Angeles Angels and Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox.
Over a three-day span, the Make-A-Wish kids were slated to take in All-Star Sunday, the Home Run Derby on Monday, and Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard (7:30 p.m. on FOX).
"It's something that is different from any other baseball experience," said 19-year-old Kyle, from Howell, Mich. "I'm so glad to be here."
Kyle and his dad recently concluded a tour of all 30 ballparks, an excursion that took 10 years to complete. The first ballpark they visited was Comerica Park in Detroit. The final one was Wrigley Field in Chicago. Kyle's favorite was Fenway Park in Boston.
But even with his extensive baseball-watching experience, Kyle still wasn't sure which All-Star event he was most looking forward to.
"I don't really know -- it's between the Home Run Derby and the actual game. I don't know which one I'll enjoy more," he said.
That was a sentiment felt among most of the group.
Drew, 15, is an Astros fan, so he's leaning toward the Derby, where he can cheer on Houston third baseman Alex Bregman. But the game has its allure, too.
"I'm super-excited, obviously," he said. "I've been looking forward to it for a long time."
Several baseball dignitaries were in attendance at Saturday's reception, including Vera Clemente, a goodwill ambassador for MLB who is the wife of the late Hall of Famer and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, and Sharon Robinson, MLB's educational programming consultant and daughter of the late Hall of Famer and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson.
The mission of Make-A-Wish is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. They're a longtime partner of MLB, and in the last year, they reached a milestone of granting 100 wishes involving the All-Star Game.
"I know first-hand how much fun you guys are going to have, and how much better it's going to be than you can even imagine right now," said Betsy Gorgei, program committee chair of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. She was speaking from experience -- 21 years ago, her son, Steven, diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, met his sports hero, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
At that moment, Gorgei pledged to ensure any eligible child would be able to receive his or her wish.
"But, to be quite honest, we couldn't do that without the support of our community and partners like [Major League Baseball]," she said. "Make-A-Wish brought light into our world. At the time Steven said to me, 'All I wanted to do was meet Dan Marino, and Make-A-Wish made it so much better.'"
Happily reporting that she recently attended Steven's wedding, Gorgei spoke directly to the kids.
"I could spend hours talking to you about how incredible it was," she said. "I just want you all to know I know first-hand the power of the wish, and I know how much fun you're going to have this weekend."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.