Tigers welcome Make-A-Wish recipient

April 17th, 2019

DETROIT -- Jonathan Atkinson thought he was headed to Comerica Park for Wednesday’s Tigers-Pirates game on a friend’s tickets when his parents brought him downtown. His father, Steve, told him that a buddy had set them up to watch batting practice, something they had never done.

The 12-year-old was in for a surprise when one of those friends was Josh Harrison.

“I kind of figured it out that I was coming down here,” the younger Atkinson said. “But I was so excited, I had no clue what was going to happen next.”

After playing catch with Harrison as the Tigers second baseman prepared for pregame batting practice, Harrison had another ticket for him. This one will get him into the All-Star Game this summer in Cleveland.

“A big surprise,” he said. “I had no clue.”

For the young Atkinson, who was diagnosed with central core disease when he was younger, it’s a dream come true. It came together thanks to Make-A-Wish as part of its month-long celebration ahead of World Wish Day on April 29. The campaign highlights how a wish can give kids the strength to win their own competitions against critical illness.

This wish was two years in the making. Atkinson’s parents, Steve and Kelly, had talked about their son’s love of baseball and the Tigers. They knew sometimes wishes can take a while, with so many kids battling life-threatening conditions.

“To be honest, I kind of let it go, because I didn’t know where we landed, and I know there’s so many others,” Kelly Atkinson said. “But then it all kind of happened really quick. They put it together, and this way more than I ever would’ve thought for him.”

The presentation included a giant ticket for the All-Star Game as Jonathan’s name flashed on the Comerica Park scoreboard over his shoulder. As Miguel Cabrera watched nearby while preparing for batting practice, he signed his batting gloves and gave them to the young man as an additional gift.

Other players came by and signed the giant ticket, from Harrison to Jordy Mercer to Cabrera. After watching batting practice, the Atkinsons were treated to dinner in the Tiger Club ahead of Wednesday’s game.

Jonathan will presumably have a regular-size ticket for the All-Star Game, where he’s hoping to see Francisco Lindor and Aaron Judge. But the experience of meeting Tigers players and seeing them up close was second to none.

“To me, I think this is really cool,” Kelly Atkinson said. “This is our home stadium, with the name on the board and the ticket that he can hold onto forever, and he can see the players up close. I think this is amazing. I’m overwhelmed.”