Wyatt Anthony can stake claim to the title of Orioles outfielder Travis Snider's biggest fan, and on Sunday at Camden Yards, the 8-year-old will get to reconnect with his hero.
It is a visit nearly five months in the making, one connecting an athlete and a fan from 10,000 miles apart through social media.
And it shows the devotion one young boy holds for his favorite player, no matter which jersey he wears.
Snider has been Anthony's favorite player going back two years, when Snider was playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Anthony and his family were listening to the Pirates play the Cubs on the radio when Snider stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded. The young boy predicted a grand slam, and sure enough, Snider delivered one.
After that, Snider was Anthony's hero, his favorite player on his hometown team.
Last July, Anthony's family relocated from Pittsburgh to Thailand for his father's job with the Associated Press, but not before he briefly got to meet Snider prior to a Pirates game at PNC Park, sending the boy's admiration to another level.
But when Snider was traded to the Orioles in late January, Anthony was wrecked. His father, Ted, posted a photo of a dejected Wyatt on Twitter, his Snider No. 23 Pirates jersey hanging on a chair.
"8-yr-old Pittsburgher living in Thailand is [very] sad about his favorite player 2day & wishes u success," the tweet said.
Ted Anthony also wrote an in-depth piece on the blog-publishing platform Medium detailing his son's love for Snider. The Orioles caught wind and in the first week of February, they sent a care package to Wyatt in Thailand that included an Orioles jersey and hat.
Included was a letter from the team, telling Wyatt it might be difficult to see his favorite player in a different uniform, just like it isn't easy to move away from family and friends, as he did in moving to Thailand. The letter welcomed Wyatt to "the Birdland family" and said the team hoped he would continue to root for Snider from Thailand.
In some ways, it helped the little boy in his transition to a new country.
"We really liked this notion that he's not the only person who can sort of be uprooted from what he's familiar with and some of the things he's become used to and to sort of head into new adventures," Ted Anthony said. "I think there's a real parallel between what happens to baseball players and kids who have to move in the early part of their lives. … We really emphasized that to him when the Orioles sent the letter."
Separately, Snider was touched by Wyatt. He remembered Ted Anthony's tweet two years ago of one of Wyatt's hand-drawn pictures of Snider that even included his flushed cheeks colored in red. Snider remembered the image of the sad kid with the Snider jersey when he was traded. And reading Ted Anthony's story on Medium put it all together.
"These situations show the positive interactions you can have over social media with fans," Snider said. "Unfortunately, in today's game, there's a lot of negative stuff out there. … As athletes, sometimes we forget the little kids we're able to impact all around the world. Reading his story, his ability to predict home runs, it actually coming true — it was a home run for me that I'll never forget, a pinch-hit grand slam.
"… I thought it would be pretty cool, the chance to meet him again, see him again, just to develop a relationship with him. Hopefully it can be a positive impact on him for the rest of his life."
So in late March, the Orioles' Twitter account posted a video from Snider inviting Wyatt to a game at Camden Yards.
"It's not normal stuff for an 8-year-old to get a message from his favorite baseball player on video 10,000 miles away," Ted Anthony said. "It rocked his world for sure."
Twitter allowed that 10,000-mile gap to be closed quickly, something that wasn't the case years ago. Wyatt's father, who also grew up in Pittsburgh, was 11 when his family moved to China. He listened to the Pirates win Game 7 of the 1979 World Series over the Orioles on armed forces radio. He felt connected, but it wasn't the same.
"It was a very conscious thing to try to bridge that distance with this because you can reach out and communicate with your favorite people, and I think for Wyatt, that was another indicator that the world wasn't all that huge, that everything he cared about wasn't necessarily gone," Ted Anthony said. "Social media makes a big difference in that respect in reminding kids who have to leave their homes that the world is still there."
The Anthony family already planned a return trip to the United States this summer so Wyatt and his 12-year-old brother Mason could attend baseball camp and come home to Pittsburgh for a while. But for both brothers, their favorite players no longer played for the Pirates. So the family planned trips to both Toronto, where Mason could see Pirate-turned-Blue-Jay Russell Martin, and Baltimore, where Wyatt could see Snider again.
They were invited to meet Snider before Saturday's game, but after the game's postponement, they will get to reconnect with the Orioles outfielder before Sunday's doubleheader.
This time, Wyatt will be wearing an Orioles Snider jersey. He plans to bring Snider, who has an affinity for grilling and food, a relevant gift from Thailand. Snider plans to send Wyatt home with some presents as well.
"On a scale of one to 10, I'm 10 excited," Wyatt said. "I can't wait to go."
He has plenty of things to tell Snider, like how "awesome" it was when he struck out Reds slugger Joey Votto last June. Wyatt is also going to ask Snider how it felt to hit the pinch-hit grand slam he predicted.
"And I'm going to ask him, 'How's Baltimore?'" Wyatt said.
Wyatt's story hit home with Snider. Growing up a Mariners fan outside Seattle, he remembered what it was like when the star players he admired like Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez left town to play for other teams.
"Reading that article, it resonated with me — thinking back to when I was a kid, when Griffey left, when A-Rod left, the amount of passion fan bases all across baseball and all across the world have and how serious some little kids take it. It's pretty cool," Snider said. "Just seeing the picture and the jersey and his whole reaction to the thing, being able to send that video in spring training, and now knowing that he's jumped on board with the Orioles and now they had the opportunity to come back to the states, it's great."
Sometimes fans can create an impression on the players that admire. Snider brings up the reaction two young Pirates fans had when former teammate Andrew McCutchen gave them his batting gloves recently. Over the weekend, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was so impressed by the moxie of a vocal young Cleveland Indians fan who caught a foul ball with his hat, that Cabrera gave him a bat between innings.
And Snider knows he will never forget his No. 1 fan.
"I think it was the whole thing," he said. "You don't see too many people who post hand-drawn [pictures] like that. And to see it from a little kid who had enough attention to detail to show my flushed cheeks, that resonated with me. … We have this wonderful blessing to be on the platform we are on and I think we have a lot of creative ambassadors in baseball. … That's something that throughout my career, I've looked for those opportunities for random acts of kindness."