Most of the Major League Baseball offseason is gonna be full of Alex Rodriguez and his parade of Lance Armstrong-esque emotional grandstanding, so we’ll try to keep a focus on the positive, like this amazing video of Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz and his giant anthropomorphic bird friend showing up to surprise one of his biggest fans, a 6-year old boy battling leukemia.
The local Washington Township Fire Department had invited young Aiden Riebel and his 10-year-old brother, Max, to become honorary firemen. They got medals (basically the coolest thing you can get as a kid) as well as signed Chooch jerseys, and if that’d been the entire ceremony it would’ve been emotional and heartwarming. But then Ruiz himself shows up and embraces the boy, and the tears start flowing.
With the Saint Florian medal dangling around his neck, Aiden and his 10-year-old brother, Max, were then each given a Carlos Ruiz jersey and a baseball autographed by the Phillies catcher. Moments later, Ruiz himself — to the surprise of nearly everyone in the auditorium — emerged from a door at the back of the stage and proceeded to engage Aiden in a 45-second, teary-eyed embrace.
“Sometimes things happen for some reason, but this is special that God put us all together right here,” said an emotional Ruiz. “Thanks to all the firefighters that came out and everybody else that is here and thank you for letting me be part of this.”
Thankfully the Phillie Phanatic shows up to lighten the emotional gravity a little, because how are you supposed to feel sad or choked up when the Phanatic’s nearby?
Here’s a clip of the moment, and you should watch it five or six times just to make sure your heart’s ready for the rest of the week.
[mlbvideo id=”31235033″ width=”650″ height=”400″ /]
More on how the moment came together, courtesy of Crossing Broad:
In the days leading up to the ceremony, Aiden’s aunt, Katie Stier, was the only member of the entire family aware that Ruiz would be attending Thursday’s event. She notified the rest of the family at approximately noon on the day of the event, but she kept one last surprise guest completely hidden from Aiden.
Along with meeting his favorite baseball player, Aiden on Thursday met his favorite sports mascot as the Phillie Phanatic stormed onto the stage, instantly bringing an smile to the boy’s face.
“Everyone just wanted to do something and be part of this,” Stier said. “Between the fire department setting this all up and the Phillies being so eager to help out, it all just came together to be a very special evening for Aiden.”
For Aiden, the festivities provided a brief distraction from his seemingly never-ending battle.
As he attempts to beat the disease for a third time, his routine now involves at least two hospital trips every week to receive transfusions and other treatments. Though Aiden is aware of what is going on to the extent that he knows he is sick and needs the continuous treatment to keep living, his mother said he never lets that break his spirit.
“He just burrows through it all, like, ‘OK, Mom, what’s our next trip? What are we doing today?’” Ludwig said. “So every day is a new beginning for him, and we cherish every one we get with him.”
BRB, I need to put my head down on my desk for like an hour.