Ryan Howard's home run Friday night was the first of four runs for the Philadelphia Phillies in a 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins. The slugger's blast into right field was made all the more memorable because he hit it for a blind, 7-year-old fan named A.J. who had come to the park as part of a special teacher's appreciation night.
A.J., a second grader from Hopewell Elementary School, had nominated his vision support and Braille teacher Bethann Molinari as his Teacher All-Star in a contest sponsored by the Phillies and The Philadelphia Inquirer, per MLB.com. Of the 1,500 teacher nominations, Molinari was chosen as one of ten finalists for the award, which is why they both were in attendance Friday night, for the team's 13th straight year holding a Teacher Appreciation Night.
According to USA Today, A.J., was diagnosed with Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) at an early age. LCA is a genetic eye disorder that primarily affects the retina and causes severe vision impairment from a young age, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Before the Phillies game, A.J. presented Howard, the Phillies' veteran first baseman, with a special bracelet, and asked him to hit a home run, according to USA Today. Howard put the bracelet on his wrist, and took only one at bat to deliver on A.J.'s request.
"I told him, 'I want you to hit a home run tonight just for this,'" A.J. said, in a video aired on MLB.com. After Howard hit the home, A.J. said, "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's probably for me.'"
This is was Howard's second home run in two nights and his 36th all time against the Marlins, reports the Miami Sun-Sentinel.