ANAHEIM, Calif. — Xander Bogaerts needed a few moments to gain some composure when asked about his experiences with Ari Schultz, a 5-year-old Sox fan from Stow who passed away on Friday.
On July 14, Bogaerts and teammate Christian Vazquez visited Schultz and his family at their home and spent nearly three hours. They played baseball and football, read stories to him and invited Ari to throw out a first pitch at Fenway Park on Aug 27.
Vazquez promised he would catch the pitch and presented Ari with a kid-sized catcher’s mask. Bogaerts gave him a glove, ball, and T-shirt.
In the family’s backyard, Ari hit a home run and ran the bases despite being on oxygen. Bogaerts and Vazquez hugged him when he got to the plate.
“I’ve never been around such an uplifting little kid,” Bogaerts said. “That news, it’s just so sad. He has a special family.”
It was only six days later that Ari had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. His family said he died while listening to Friday’s game.
“I can’t believe this all happened so quickly,” Bogaerts said. “He seemed to be doing well.”
Ari had two heart surgeries before he was born and later underwent a heart transplant. He spent much of his life at Boston Children’s Hospital, almost always with Red Sox gear close by. Bogaerts was his favorite player.
The players in the team’s rookie development program met Ari in January. Then in June, Bogaerts became aware of the situation when a video of Ari pretending he was Bogaerts hitting a home run was picked up on social media.
At the time, Ari was celebrating his pending release from the hospital.
Ari and his family also had a close relationship with the Assumption College baseball team, who signed him to a letter of intent in November and gave him a uniform jersey.