Make A Wish: Trumbull boy’s dream comes true with Mets visit
[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.”
In a day that lasted more than seven hours and included being on Citi Field’s Jumbotron, Justin’s favorite memory was his first interaction with Granderson in the team’s private entrance.
“He walked right to where I was with my family and said hello to all of us,” said Justin, who will be entering the fourth grade at Frenchtown Elementary School in less than two weeks. “That was my definitely favorite part.”
Vincent added that she couldn’t guarantee the Horton family anything more than that part of the experience.
“When you’re looking to meet a sports figure, you’re really at the mercy of their schedule, and sometimes you can only get them for five minutes,” she explained. “You never know how it will go in a live-game situation, but when we got there, most players were getting dressed and Curtis came right out and stayed with Justin the entire time — he really went above and beyond all of our expectations.”
From watching Curtis perform indoor batting practice to getting to step up the plate himself, Justin was given full access to life as a New York Met.
“Curtis was giving him tips when he hit and was really just engaging with him throughout the pre-game activities,” Vincent said. “He gave Justin complete access to everything, and he really watched him and was just very positive with him.”
Family and friends
Before the game last week, Justin had a party at InSports in Trumbull. The sports complex donated the entire facility to the Hortons and Make A Wish to fit the 100-plus list of family and friends.
“It was quite the party,” Horton said.
Her husband, Bill, made six life-size cutouts of Justin for the party.
Three days later, the group was back together at Citi Field — even though most of the members in the Horton clan had originally bought tickets to the Tuesday game against the Rockies, which was delayed due to rain.
Horton said the Mets stepped up to the plate yet again to accommodate those who weren’t seated with Justin at field level in Section 112, just above the Mets dugout.
“That was huge on the Mets part — to exchange those tickets for those who could make it down Wednesday,” said the mother of three.
Vincent said there were about 40 people there for Justin.
“They were holding up signs and banners that said ‘Team Justin’ and cheering on Curtis and the Mets,” she said.
“Justin was over the moon,” she added. “It was a very special wish.”