Félix Hernández received his figurative flowers from Seattle Mariners fans on Saturday when he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
But a special surprise at the ceremony was when 15-year-old Sophia Robinson actually handed the Cy Young winner a bouquet of flowers. She flew in from her home in Anchorage, Alaska with her family to be there for the big day.
Hernández, who spent 15 MLB seasons with the Mariners, appreciated the gesture, giving Robinson a big hug and raising her hand as she handed him flowers.
“I’m honored to do this and it’s really special,” Robinson told USA TODAY Sports ahead of the game.
Robinson and Hernández have a friendship that spans a decade from when they met in 2013 through Make-A-Wish. She grew up with her family watching the Mariners and, after undergoing two heart surgeries at 4 years old, wanted to meet her favorite player.
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Robinson has three congenital heart conditions — ventricular septal defect (a hole in one of the walls of the heart), coarctation of the aorta and interrupted aortic arch (the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the body is not fully formed). She and her family flew to Seattle several times while she was a child to receive treatment from Seattle Children’s Hospital because there wasn’t sufficient care in Anchorage.
She met Hernández during one of those trips. They got to chat by his locker and play with the dirt in the field.
“I was pretty happy,” Sophia recalled.
“When I met Sophia, I mean, that was real special,” Hernández said in Make-A-Wish’s recap video. “… When you try to put a smile one someone’s face, it’ll make you feel really good.”
The two have kept in touch since that day, initially messaging on social media and then exchanging text messages. They reunited in 2017 when Robinson ran the bases during the season’s home opener. The Robinsons also had dinner with Hernández’s family around that time, but they haven’t connected in person since.
“The last time she was 9 and now she’s 15, so he’s seeing a very, very different child,” Robinson’s mother, Talia, said. “… This Make-A-Wish that started in 2013 turned into this relationship between a little girl from Alaska and Félix.”