Kyler Sager is crazy about the Mariners. His favorite players are Ichiro Suzuki, Bret Boone and Dan Wilson. Baseball fan though he is, the 8-year-old is even more enthusiastic about a fellow named George W. Bush.
The Snohomish area boy hopes to meet the president someday. In the meantime, the Seattle Mariners will do just fine.
At the home opener against the Anaheim Angels on Tuesday, Kyler will make the ceremonial first run around the bases at Safeco Field. He was diagnosed with leukemia nearly two years ago and is undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.
The base run was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Alaska, Montana, Northern Idaho and Washington. It will be a thrill, but it’s not Kyler’s biggest wish, said his mother, Debbie Sager.
Driving back to their Machias home from the hospital, Sager said she and her son got to talking about what he might request of the nonprofit organization, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
"Most kids pick a trip or to meet a famous person," Sager said. When Kyler told her he wanted "to go to D.C." and meet the president, she said she asked, "D.C. — you mean Washington, D.C.? Do you know who the president is?"
Her son was emphatic about his desire to meet President Bush. Sager said he even quizzed her, "And do you know who his wife is? Laura."
A second-grader at Cathcart Elementary School, Kyler said Thursday he still wants to meet Bush. "I want to get to see his White House and get to see him in person," he said.
But not this week. On Monday, he’ll make a practice loop at Safeco. And in festivities preceding Tuesday’s 2:05 p.m. game, he’ll dash around the bases in view of what’s sure to be a sellout crowd, wearing a Mariners uniform made just for him.
Nervous? "Yeah," he said Thursday.
The run should be a breeze for a boy who takes daily doses of oral chemotherapy medication; goes to Children’s Hospital every few months for more intensive chemo treatments and spinal taps; attends school; and plays soccer and baseball with North Snohomish Little League.
"He’s a trouper," Sager said. She and her husband, Joe, also have an 11-year-old son, Derek.
Kyler was diagnosed with leukemia in fall 2002 and is expected to be in a maintenance phase of treatment until December 2005, his mother said.
"We’re really lucky, some kids don’t go to school. They don’t react as well as Kyler has to his chemo," his mother said.
Nearly a dozen children are ahead of Kyler with meet-the-president wishes, said Donna Verretto of Make-A-Wish in Seattle. "It’s a wait of about a year and a half," she said.
Barry McConnell, president of the organization’s Northwest chapter, said Kyler’s run Tuesday "is not his wish experience."
"It’s something we extend from time to time to kids we know are baseball fans. It’s typical for somebody having to wait, like he is. It’s something to look forward to as he’s waiting," McConnell said.
The base running began when Safeco Field opened in 1999 and has become a tradition with Make-A-Wish. The organization makes 250 wishes come true each year in the Northwest region.
While the majority — four out of 10 wishes — involve visits to a Disney theme park, meeting a president isn’t unheard of.
"Kids have met the president from all over the country, and from our region as well. But not for a number of years, not this president," McConnell said. "A little guy named William Clinton met the previous president, Bill Clinton.
"We talk to them about the amount of time it might take, and say, ‘Is that something you might want to hang tight for?’ We give them a choice," McConnell said.
Kyler is waiting for a president.
"I don’t know which president," Sager said. If her son gets to the White House someday, he’ll have a gift for the commander in chief.
"I’ve got a picture of Kyler watching the State of the Union address," she said. "He’s a little Republican."
He likes Ichiro, too.
His mother would wish to meet another Mariner — you know the one. "Edgar," said Sager, and I heartily agreed.
More than that — so much more — we wish Kyler well.
Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or firstname.lastname@example.org