Here's your feel good story of the weekend courtesy of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.
On Friday night, the Phillies hosted Teacher Appreciation Night at Citizens Bank Park, which is a cool enough gesture in its own right as several local teachers were deservedly honored in a special pregame ceremony.
Also included in the ceremony were the young children who nominated their teachers for recognition. Among them was a blind 7-year-old boy from Hopewell Elementary School named A.J., who had nominated his braille teacher. The young fan, who was diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), then got to meet Ryan Howard down on the field. That's an awesome night right there, but what happened next was pretty close to magical for everybody involved.
First, young A.J. presented Howard with a wristband representing the cause to bring awareness to LCA, which was worn proudly throughout the Phillies 4-1 victory over the Marlins. Then he had a little request of the left-handed slugger.
"I want you to hit a home run for me tonight," was all A.J. said.
Sure enough, Howard delivered for him in his first at-bat leading off the second inning by driving Ricky Nolasco's pitch into the right field bleachers.
"Oh my gosh! That was probably for me," was A.J.'s reaction to the home run when interviewed on the Phillies broadcast.
It sure was, A.J. There's no doubt you were on Howard's mind as he made that familiar jog round the bases.
Just a great story. One that never gets old if you ask me. For every 100 times it doesn't happen, the one time it does is still priceless. It's all about the reaction and the happiness of the young fan involved, and there's no doubt Ryan Howard made A.J.'s day and gave him a feeling and a memory that blindness can never take away.
Here's a big Big League Stew salute to both A.J. and Ryan Howard for their inspiration.