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Cubs’ Contreras surprises 11-year-old ‘best friend’ with Down syndrome at school

Courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital

Hours before the Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday, Cubs star Willson Contreras surprised 11-year-old Daniel Rodriguez at Enger School in Franklin Park.

Contreras, who was named Advocate Children’s Hospital’s Most Valuable Player of the Year, hosted the ultimate party for Rodriguez and 60 of his classmates at Enger, a school that serves students with special needs. They cheerfully played whiffle ball, corn hole and played on the playground.

Throughout the event, Contreras tightly held Rodriguez’s hand.

Contreras and Rodriguez have bonded over the last year and a half — so much so that the Cubs catchers considers Rodriguez his “best friend.”

Contreras first met Rodriguez at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, in January 2017.

“From the first moment that he saw him, that they interacted … They were just communicating in their own little way,” Rodiguez’s mother, Nyvia Crespo, said. “That first impression has lasted him until this day … Willson just made him feel so much better that day. It’s like his medicine.”

The two reconnected one month later at spring training in Mesa, Arizona. Contreras greeted Daniel with open arms.

“Hey man, how are you?” Contreras asked as he crouched down to Rodriguez’s height. “Everything good?”

Edited by Madeline Kenney

Contreras has kept in contact with Rodriguez. For his 10th birthday last June, he hosted him at Wrigley Field for the ultimate VIP experience. Contreras gave him a personalized jersey and autograph batting gloves. While sitting in the dugout, Contreras rested his arm around Rodriguez’s back as the two laughed.

“Daniel is absolutely a special kid to me,” Contreras told NBC Sports Chicago after the game. “We became best friend. … He’s a special kid to me … To me, he means a lot. If there’s anything to help them, I would do it.”