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[metaslider id=37210]Some experiences are worth talking about forever.
Trumbull native Justin Horton got to enjoy one of those everlasting memories on Aug. 12 when he traveled with his family and friends to Citi Field, where was able to spend the afternoon with New York Mets centerfielder Curtis Granderson — having a catch with his favorite athlete, swinging the bat in both the team’s indoor and outdoor batting cages, touring the clubhouse and dugout, and stretching and warming up with the team on the field before its 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies.
“He told me I had a nice stance and that I was good at pretty much everything we did together,” said Justin about his one-on-one time with the three-time Major League Baseball All Star.
“When I was running onto the field with the team, it felt like I was on the Mets,” he said. “It was a great experience to be out there with them like that.”
Justin’s dream day was made possible thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.
Justin, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has been interested in baseball since he was five years old. He’s played on all star teams in Trumbull the past two summers as a right fielder and a second baseman, and has always been a passionate Mets fan.
“He’s still talking about it, and I think he’ll probably be talking about it forever,” said Emily Horton, Justin’s mother. “This is definitely something that will stay with him forever.
“It was a completely overwhelming and tremendous experience,” she added. “The Mets and Curtis Granderson surpassed my expectations, which were already sky-high before this happened. Justin couldn’t have had a better experience — he was given the full VIP treatment, the whole red carpet experience.”
In addition to all the game-day activities, Emily said Justin was given multiple one-on-one opportunities with Granderson, who talked to the nine-year-old boy about baseball, life and everything in between.
He then extended an invitation to his guest to eat with the team before the game.
“You hear about celebrities going out of their way to do all these great things, but this was so much more than that,” Horton said. “Curtis was really invested in Justin and he treated him like he was the only person in the world. He was just so genuine and that really came through.
“The fact that he made my son feel extra special — like the all-star he is — just made me so incredibly happy,” she added. “As a parent, you truly appreciate what he did and how he made Justin’s wish the best experience possible.”
Horton said her son walked away very impressed with the spread that the Mets ate before they played that night. He also found another connection to Granderson, who shares a similar palate to the young slugger’s.
“Justin found out that Curtis only eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before games,” she said, “and that was so cool because Justin eats those pretty much every day.”
Behind the scenes
Besides food, the two ballplayers bonded over a shared love of the game in the Mets locker room, where Granderson presented his guest a gift bag that included signed memorabilia, a jersey, a poster, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of other items.
Horton said that her son’s favorite gift was the bat that Granderson uses when he hits, which he signed for Justin.
In addition, Justin got a signed baseball from the centerfielder as well as another ball and poster signed by everyone on the team.
Barbara Vincent, a wish manager at Make-A-Wish, said it was amazing that the nine-year-old boy got to meet all the members of the Mets — not just his idol.
“He’s walking around the locker room and Jacob deGrom passes by, shakes his hand and gives him a high-five, then Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada walk by and do the same — that was pretty cool,” said Vincent, who’s been working on making this wish possible since February. “Finally, he got to Curtis’s locker and there was a jersey with his name on it hanging in the locker next to Curtis.”
Horton agreed that the locker room experience was one of her favorite parts of the wish.
“It was really cool to see everything behind the scenes — that’s not something a typical fan ever gets to experience,” she said. “It’s really inspiring to see that side of things; it’s quite amazing.”
“Curtis was just very involved the whole time — he walked and talked with Justin the whole time,” Vincent added. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be that engaging but he gave it his all and then some.”