Papi reunites with fan battling heart defect

Papi reunites with fan battling heart defect

BOSTON -- Just when Maverick Schutte thought he couldn't experience a bigger thrill than David Ortiz promising him a home run and delivering one against the Yankees, the 6-year-old boy learned otherwise throughout a thrill-filled Wednesday he won't forget.

The high point for Maverick had to be throwing out the first pitch before Wednesday's Red Sox-Athletics game at Fenway Park. Ortiz -- who else? -- caught it.

But there were many more moments to remember for a courageous boy who has a congenital heart defect that has led to more than 30 surgeries in his young life.

Schutte's first pitch to Papi

Twelve days after Big Papi went deep for Maverick on the same night the Red Sox legend and young boy exchanged videos, they got to spend some quality time together.

"He's been smiling the whole time he's been here," said Ortiz. "We're talking about a boy who is 6 years old -- he's been through hell. Thirty-something surgeries at the age of six. He's a hero. You're always talking about superheroes. He's a hero. He's been able to get through all the tough times."

Then there was Wednesday, which was the best time.

Maverick cheers Ortiz's single

Maverick, his mother Marti Linnane, stepfather Mike Linnane and half-sister Taylor Linnane flew from their home in Cheyenne, Wy., to Boston in the morning.

It didn't take long for Maverick to feel at home during his first visit to Fenway Park.

Maverick was in the Red Sox's clubhouse, talking to Ortiz and several other players. Maverick was in Boston's dugout, being interviewed by some reporters, and also playfully taking the microphone and doing some interviews of his own.

And perhaps most poignantly, there was Ortiz on one knee just behind the batting cage, throwing pitches to Maverick, who was connecting off Big Papi with a foam blue Red Sox bat.

Maverick gets a bat from Ortiz

"You've been watching the game," Ortiz told Maverick. "I can tell."

Kevin Millar, Ortiz's good friend and former teammate with the Red Sox, helped connect the slugger with Maverick prior to the game against the Yankees on April 29. Millar was at Fenway shooting his Intentional Talk program on MLB Network on Wednesday.

Maverick sat on Big Papi's lap during a segment on the program.

"Say hello to America," Millar said to Maverick.

Maverick wore a Red Sox hat, a blue shirt with Ortiz's name and No. 34 on the back and Batman Crocs.

Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez gave Maverick one of his bats and autographed it. Ortiz and various other Red Sox players gave Maverick plenty of other swag.

"You're going to need a bigger airplane to get back," Ortiz chuckled to Maverick, who also got Dustin Pedroia's foul ball when it landed in the stands and a fan handed it over to him.

Millar accompanied Maverick to the mound for his ceremonial first pitch.

Maverick's mom was simply blown away while taking it all in.

"An experience of a lifetime to come up here," said Marti Linnane. "It's like a fairy tale for a mom. For Maverick, it's just amazing. He's beyond overjoyed. He's so happy. He said it's the best day of his life every time we do anything with the Red Sox. As soon as he hit the field today, he said, 'I can't believe I'm in Fenway.' It's so fun."

Mike, a native of Portsmouth, N.H., is the one who helped turn Maverick into a Red Sox fan.

"Being a stepdad can be kind of a tough thing sometimes, but it got us to bond," said Linnane.

Speaking of bonds, the one between Maverick and Ortiz was hard to miss for anyone surveying the scene.

"Who will win?" a reporter asked Maverick.

"Papi," Maverick responded.

In truth, Maverick won the day on Wednesday.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.