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Make-A-Wish children receive All-Star treatment

FanFest, Futures Game, Home Run Derby, All-Star Game on itinerary

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball welcomed seven Make-A-Wish children and their families at a special All-Star Game reception at the Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel on Saturday.

The seven children, who hail from all over the country, all wished to go to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field and were rewarded in a big way by Major League Baseball and the host New York Mets.

After Saturday's welcome event, they will have VIP access to the All-Star FanFest, Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, Monday's Chevrolet Home Run Derby and Tuesday's All-Star Game. They will be able to meet players on the field before the Futures Game and Home Run Derby and will also watch all three events from a private suite at Citi Field.

"This is fantastic," said Thomas C. Brasuell, MLB's vice president of community affairs. "It's been an All-Star tradition now to bring Make-A-Wish kids in from all over the country. This is one of the top wishes for the kids. They want to go to a baseball game, and the All-Star Game is at the top of the list. Make-A-Wish asks kids to dream big, and that's what they're doing. You can't get bigger than the All-Star Game in New York, so we're happy to work with the Mets, who were able to help out with what the kids get this week."

Major League Baseball has a long history with Make-A-Wish, and has granted more than 70 wishes since 2000 for kids to go to the All-Star Game and World Series games.

The welcome reception featured three players set to play in the Futures Game -- Tigers prospect Jordan Lennerton, No. 11 Blue Jays prospect A.J. Jimenez and top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts -- as well as Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon, and Roberto Clemente's widow, Vera. It also featured several mascots, including Bernie Brewer, Southpaw and Rangers Captain.

"It's always nice to give back," Lennerton said. "All the people you see at the ballgame, you never get a chance to make a personal relationship with them, so it's nice to able to come to events like that and give back to people who really deserve it."

The welcome reception was hailed as a success by all involved, including Jay Patrick, the vice president of development at Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York.

"For us, it means making the wish experience magical, which is what we try to do with every wish," Patrick said. "Sometimes we need partners to make that happen, and Major League Baseball definitely makes that happen. From what happened today, meeting the mascots, meeting the players, meeting the legends and getting extra stuff like personalized jerseys, that's the kind of stuff that makes it magical. And I could see it in the faces of the kids, their parents and their siblings. So it's pretty awesome."

The families arrived Saturday and will have a tour of FanFest on Sunday morning before attending the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and All-Star Game this week. It is sure to be a memorable experience for everyone in attendance, and it would not be possible without the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Major League Baseball.

"They'll get to go to everything," Patrick said. "They'll have a suite and sit as a group for the All-Star Game with Sharon Robinson and Vera Clemente. So it's pretty cool. I was amazed by all the kids of all different ages that they all knew who Clemente and Robinson were. And of course, their parents are excited. So seeing their faces is just really fun."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.