Mike and his family sat in the dugout, anxiously awaiting their chance to meet Mike’s hero, Ken Griffey Junior.
When Mike found out he qualified for a wish, the decision was easy. “He’s an amazing player, a cool guy. He stood out from the rest,” said Mike. “I knew if I could meet him, it would be the most extraordinary and memorable thing I could do.”
One by one, Mike watched players run from the clubhouse up to the field. Every time a player ran by, his heart skipped a beat. Until suddenly, Griffey was there. And with that famous smile and a slight nod of his head, Griffey invited Mike to join him in an unforgettable day.
Just days before, Mike had been living his normal life with cystic fibrosis (CF). He spent many of his days going to doctor appointments and doing treatments that caused him to miss out on parts of his childhood. “I remember times I didn’t want my friends to come over for a sleepover because I had to do all of these treatments,” he said. “I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to look at me differently.”
Now, Mike got to walk onto the field with his sports idol, and CF was the last thing on his mind.
“He made me feel comfortable from the moment I met him, and I remember how special that was.”
The two joined the team in the outfield for stretches. Mike traded jokes with Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Griffey. Mike and Griffey ran the bases together; they watched batting practice from behind home plate. At one point, Griffey lent Mike his bat so he could take a few swings in the cage.
The two even played catch along the foul line, as fans started to fill the stadium. “I remember looking over and seeing all the kids at the railing,” Mike said. “They must’ve been thinking I was so lucky, and in that moment I knew I was.”
His family still jokes over one of Mike’s favorite memories from the day, which started as an innocent conversation in the dugout. “Griffey was asking about my family back home, and I told him I couldn’t wait to tell my grandma about my wish,” Mike said. “Then all of a sudden, Griffey said, ‘we should call her.’” Before he knew it, Griffey had a phone and his grandma’s number. When she picked up, he said, “Hi Wilma Jean, this is Mike’s friend, Ken.”
“It just goes to show what kind of a guy he is,” said Mike. “He is so gracious, he wanted everyone who was important with me to get involved with the experience.”
Now, 17 years later, Mike is still reliving those memories. “I appreciated it so much at the time, but every year since then it gets even more special thinking about what I got to do.”
The same medical condition that qualified Mike for his wish in 1999, cystic fibrosis, still continues to be part of his life. He goes to clinic every four months and keeps up a treatment regimen at home and is keeping his health up.
And he still wells up with pride when asked about his wish and the impact it had on his life. “All of the negativity that has to be dealt with on a daily basis goes away,” he said. “It gives you time to focus on the positive. And positivity is the most important thing.”
It’s because of that positivity that, on Mike’s wish day and every day he retells the stories, Mike’s smile is as big as Ken Griffey Junior’s.