Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 5/1/12
On the same road trip that capped a bad week for the Detroit Tigers, a little girl's wish came true in Cy Young -- and MVP -- fashion. Meet Shayna Hersh. She's an 11-year-old from Huntington Woods, Mich., whose nickname just happens to be Verlander. Her favorite team is, obviously, the Detroit Tigers. Her favorite player is, of course, Justin Verlander, and she's been writing to him since last season. Shayna lost her mother, Ellina, last year to pancreatic and bile duct cancer, a tough thing for anyone to handle, let alone a 10-year-old kid. Shayna is tough, though, tough as nails by all accounts, though, and that same summer, her father says, she fell in love with baseball. Shayna also has cystic fibrosis, a disease that forces her to undergo breathing treatments throughout the day and to cope with a long list of pharmaceuticals. So when Shayna's father, Joel, got a call from the Tigers informing him that Verlander wanted to fly them to New York for the Tigers-Yankees series last weekend, Joel was thrilled for his daughter. "I got a call from the Tigers, which I was totally thrown off by," he said in a recent MLB.com interview. "They told me they'd like to bring her into New York City. She's on cloud nine. I am, too, but it's for her." Not only did Verlander offer to fly them in, he also got them seats to a couple of the games at Yankee Stadium, including last Friday's game in which Verlander himself started. Shayna also got to meet Verlander at the baseball-fan equivalent of Disneyland, the MLB Fancave in Manhattan, the following day. Verlander said that Shayna's letters and the support she got from her classmates prompted him to offer up the trip. "It just kind of happened," Verlander told FOXSportsDetroit.com. "We planned on me going to the Fan Cave and started taking, I guess, letters of people to meet with and do that whole experience. "She'd been sending letters for a while, but then all of her classmates sent a letter. "It just kind of grabs your attention. You get 20-some letters from a class full of fifth-graders. It's pretty special, so I decided to surprise her and it worked out well." Joel's toughest task was keeping the intention of the trip a secret. He told Shayna that they were going to meet family and catch a ball game. When she met Verlander, it was a total surprise. "Her reaction, I didn't know what I was going to get," Verlander said. "It was kind of like she was in shock. It was great. "I had a blast doing it because of her, really. The Fan Cave is neat and all, but that wasn't why I was going. I wanted to spend some time with her. It was fun." It was a much-needed and well-deserved ray of light for this girl with a boxer's spirit; the last year has not been an easy one. "Shayna basically spent the entire summer with baseball," Joel said. "I took her to see her mother every day, and they would spend the time watching Tiger games the whole time. "She loves baseball. I took her to a Toledo Mud Hens game for her birthday, and that was a thrill for her. She cornered Magglio Ordonez and got an autograph." There was no cornering this time for Shayna Just some skeeball, hanging out with her hero and a big hug for a little girl -- the cherry on top of one heckuva Sundae on a Saturday to be remembered.
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