FRANKLIN PARK, Ill. — Cubs catcher Willson Contreras made the start of the school year especially memorable for one of his biggest fans Thursday with a surprise visit to his Franklin Park school.
Contreras is quick to call 11-year-old Daniel Rodriguez his best friend. The pair first met several years ago When the ballplayer visited Advocate Children's Hospital several years ago, Daniel was in a coma at the time. On his next visit to the hospital, Contreras did not forget to pay him a visit.
"He said, 'I want to go back and see that one kid again,'" Daniel's dad Will Rodriguez said. "He stayed there and talked for two hours, and that’s where the relationship started, but it's evolved into this, and my son just adores him."
Since then, there’s been a visit to Cubs spring training in Arizona and one heck of a 10th birthday for Daniel at Wrigley Field in 2017. For his part, Contreras says he talks about Daniel, who has down syndrome, to his teammates all the time.
"I can’t thank God enough to have met this guy," Contreras said. "Every time I see him, I see his face, he's the happiest kid ever."
Daniel was also happy to introduce his big buddy to his classmates, bringing giggles and smiles to their faces too. As a token of their appreciation, the folks at Enger School and Advocate Children's Hospital are naming number 40 their MVP, but Contreras says it’s just the way he was raised to be.
"I think that's one of the most beautiful things that they could teach me," Contreras said.
Willson Contreras shows what it means to be an All-Star and champion, both on and off the field.