Shayna Hersh, an 11-year-old from Huntington Woods, Mich., is a baseball player. A die-hard Tigers fan, Hersh even refused to play softball because she so badly wanted to be like her favorite athletes. For Hersh, no other athlete is as beloved as Tigers Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.
As reported by the Detroit News and a variety of other sources, including Off the Bench, Hersh often wears Verlander t-shirts. Her friends on her baseball team all call her Verlander, and Hersh claims "they say I throw like him." Her father insists that his daughter even knows more about Verlander than the pitcher knows about himself.
Yet all isn't entirely sunny for Hersh. The Huntington Woods elementary schooler has lived her entire life with cystic fibrosis, the debilitating disease which affects Hersh's lungs and poses a threat to her life every day. Hersh also lost her mother to an unspecified disease in 2011.
Those traumatic setbacks haven't slowed Hersh's commitment to baseball or, notably, to Verlander. The 11-year-old has been writing letters to Verlander for multiple years, and the pitcher took note, eventually helping organize a trip for Hersh and her father to see the Tigers play at Yankee Stadium.
Throughout that trip, Shayna Hersh didn't know that Verlander had set up her trip … until he surprised her while she was filming a segment about the trip in MLB's Fan Cave, as you can see above.
The 11-year-old was clearly touched, but she never lost her cool while in the presence of her hero. "I stayed for the whole game," Hersh said when Verlander asked her about the prior evening's matchup at Yankee Stadium.
As for the ace, it was clear that he got almost as much out of the encounter as Hersh did herself.
"It was such a touching story and, you know, I thought what an amazing opportunity to really surprise this young girl and bring her up here to watch a couple of games," Verlander said in the MLB video, which was posted on YouTube.