Sometimes wishes come true
Cancer patient chooses day with Tribe over pop star
CLEVELAND -- The locker stall just inside the double doors to the Indians clubhouse had a fresh nameplate on it. The bold letters on the nameplate this day spelled "FRAGOSO."
But there were no Louisville Sluggers in the stall. No Wilson A 2000 gloves or other baseball gear, just a small, blue shoulder bag placed on a chair in from the stall. No player in sight.
The player, dressed in a white Indians uniform, was busy elsewhere. He'd wandered over toward Victor Martinez's locker stall where he laughed and joked with Martinez's son.
For 7-year-old like Alonso Fragoso, that's about all he could ask for: one day to bounce around a Major League clubhouse like a ping-pong ball.
To spend the day alongside his favorite ballplayer and with his favorite Major League team, Alonso might well have looked at this day as Christmas in May.
For a boy whose body has had to withstand stomach cancer, every day has become a blessing -- a day to celebrate living. And he celebrated this day with the energy and smiles that befit a boy who loves living -- and baseball, too.
He was an honored guest of the Indians, invited here in a letter from Grady Sizemore. The invitation was extended on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants ailing youngsters like Alonso wishes in hopes of bringing joy into their lives.
"It was a dream come true," says Maria Fragoso, his mother. "It was very, very important to him."
She says Alonso weighed two choices when he was selected as a Make-A-Wish recipient. One was to come to Progressive Field and spend the day with the Indians. The other was to spend a day with singer Ricky Martin, a pop idol among Latino youth like Alonso.
As much as he loved Martin and his music, Alonso loved the Indians more.
"I used to play baseball," he says softly. "They're my favorite team."
In his hometown of Las Vegas, he says he played Little League baseball for a team whose name was "Indians."
Alonso told his mother, "Well, if I don't meet the Indians, then maybe I want to meet Ricky Martin, but Cleveland is my first choice."
So here he was on a cool spring day in Cleveland, dressed to play and soaking up an experience that boys twice Alonso's age would trade their Wii or PlayStation3 and their cell phone for.
He was supposed to be here a year ago, his mother says. But the cancer was wracking his tiny body. He was too ill back then to travel, so the trip to Progressive Field was put on hold.
"Right now," she says, "this is the best he has been for months. It just has been perfect."
For her, for her husband Jaime and their daughter, it was perfect. They were seeing Alonso, his face aglow, walk among big leaguers. He didn't just walk among them; he was one of them, dressed in an official uniform as if he'd be taking the field with the rest of the boys.
"I cried," Maria Fragoso says.
She called the experience more than anybody could have imagined. Her son played catch on the field; he took batting practice; and he threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch.
Words do the experience an injustice.
"It was so fantastic," Maria Fragoso says.
For it was a day that made her son's dream come true; it was a day in which she and her family could enjoy one of the highest moments in a boy's life that has had far too many lows.
"It has been difficult," she admits. "I call it the 'emotional roller coaster,' because sometimes he was getting fevers. We went to the hospital and didn't know how long it was going to take; it has been one day at a time."
On this one day, she saw her son too consumed with the experience to think about much else. While she expected a warm reception, she never envisioned anything like what she got - not so much for herself, her husband and her daughter -- but for Alonso, the pint-sized boy in the white Indians uniform who was roaming the clubhouse without a care.
As the day played out, Alonso had few words for what he was experiencing. All of it seemed so overwhelming -- a moment too good to be true.
Was it what he'd thought it would be?
"Yes," Alonso says, "because I got to do stuff I didn't get to do before."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.