Johny Throws First Pitch at Mariners Game

By Nina Moore, Treehouse Graduation Success Coordinator

Johny’s love of baseball precedes him. Before I had even met Johny, people would talk about him with bright faces as if the joy he got from baseball was contagious. At our weekly meetings, Johny and I would check his attendance and grades, chat about his behavior in school and at home, and then watch game clips from his favorite team—the Mariners. While I sat at my desk, Johny was always on his feet with his glove in hand demonstrating to me every player’s unique pitching style.

One week, I shared that I would be traveling to Seattle the next day for a staff meeting. Johny immediately said: “That’s where my team plays!”

When you love something, everything else exists in relation to what you love.

Johny and I started dreaming about what it would take for him to someday see a Mariners game live. We talked about the details of making this happen, but it was always after graduating from high school, having a job and saving up enough money. Johny lived in a group home and weekend trips to Seattle just weren’t in the cards for him.

Until they were. When I read the email looking for a youth in foster care to throw the first pitch at the Mariners We Are Family Day, my stomach flip-flopped the way it does when something is a perfect fit. This experience was made for Johny—the student who watches every single Mariners game, pitches for his high school’s DI baseball team and lives in a group home with no opportunity for weekend trips to Seattle.

When you persistently love something, doors open.

Johny and I spent our next few meetings preparing mentally and physically for the game. He would practice his pitching technique while I did my best to prepare him for T-Mobile Park. When I would bring up possible concerns such as: “It’s going to be very loud in the stadium,” Johny would acknowledge it. But he would bring the focus right back to the topic at hand: “Yeah… But you know my pitcher Felix Hernandez? He’s really good.”

When you love something, there’s no space for fear.

Johny got to choose the staff who would attend the game with him, spend time on the field before pitching and watch the game from a special suite. One of the things that made this day extra special was having three of his favorite teachers from Ferris High School drive over to watch him pitch.

Johny came back from the big weekend with a huge smile on his face, and otherwise fairly quiet. Sometimes there’s no words to describe a perfect experience, except to proudly wear your Hernandez jersey as often as possible and choose the perfect glove for your next meeting with Treehouse.

As a Graduation Success Coordinator, part of my role is to partner with my students to identify what brings them joy. I join them in the process of pursuing the things they love. After this, it’s clear to Johny that he is seen, valued and his dreams are taken seriously.

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About the Author

Nina Moore is a Graduation Success Coordinator in Spokane. This is her dream job because she gets to join her students in their process of figuring out what they’re passionate about and who they want to become. Nina grew up in the mountain town of Winthrop, WA and still carries with her a love of wild spaces.

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