MIAMI — Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson helped make a teenager’s wish become a reality Wednesday.
Thanks to the Kids Wish Network, the two Marlins stars played host to Blake Brunner, a 17-year-old Minnesota native who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it difficult for the heart to efficiently pump blood.
Brunner’s wish was to see the Marlins play, and specifically, meet Reyes and Johnson, so the Kids Wish Network flew him and his family to Miami for Wednesday’s game.
“It’s very exciting, just to be around that kid … and to see how happy he is to be here,” Reyes said.
Brunner got to tour the Marlins’ clubhouse, where a locker — right next to Reyes’ one — was set up for him, complete with a custom authentic black Marlins jersey, a Marlins cap that Reyes was going to get the entire team to sign, as well as other gifts like bobblehead dolls of Johnson and slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Reyes also got a gift from Brunner, who gave the Marlins shortstop a blue-and-yellow wristband that read “Stay Strong Blake” — a good-luck charm, according to Reyes.
After chatting with Reyes, Brunner went out to the field with Johnson for pregame stretches and to watch batting practice from right behind the batting cage and meet other Marlins players and coaches.
Reyes was approached about the idea two months ago and immediately said yes to it after he had a similar experience with a child from Canada during Spring Training. Reyes said he hopes to keep up with Brunner and his progress long after Wednesday’s meeting.
“It makes me feel good, because I know those kinds of kids, if they’re around Major League players they’re going to feel good and feel happy at least for the moment,” Reyes said. “I just want to be a role model for the kid. I know what he’s going through. I just want to be beside him.”