Carson City youth receives wish to meet Jeter
June 20, 2007
Boys all across the country dream about meeting New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Carson City’s Rhett Petrenko lived the dream.
Petrenko received the chance to meet his hero when he went back to Yankee Stadium as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with serious illnesses.
When Petrenko was an infant, he was stricken with systematic juvenile rheumatoid athritis, a condition that only one in 500,000 children has. It’s a disease that attacks all of one’s organs and joints.
But 13-year-old Petrenko has been in remission for the past five years and he’s gotten to the point where he’s even playing this summer in the Carson City Babe Ruth League. Petrenko also plays basketball and golfs. “It means a lot to me,” he said. “It means a lot that I can go out there and play.”
Petrenko’s mother, Daria Petrenko, found out about the possibility of her son attending a game at Yankee Stadium when she was watching a report last year on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Petrenko applied and found out her son qualified last September.
The Yankees grant about 30 wishes a year and the Petrenkos were given three games to choose from. They decided on the Yankees-Arizona Diamondbacks game on June 12.
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The Petrenkos say if not for the diligent work of Sherry Johnson, director of program services for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Nevada, the trip would have never happened.
“She was great,” Daria said. “She went above and beyond to set it up for us. She went way out of her way to make this happen. She’s a pretty amazing lady.”
On trips such as this there are no guarantees that arrangements can be made for chances like to meet Jeter, so the Petrenkos were really grateful for all the work Johnson did. “We were overwhelmed to meet Derek,” Daria said.
“Thank you very much for an awesome trip,” said Rhett to Johnson. “I’m hoping you can do it for other kids to make them just as happy as me.”
Others who played important roles in helping out with the experience were Shawn Kurshuk and Rocky Halsey of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in New York and Christine Dixon also of Make-A-Wish. Daniel Weiss of the Yankees also played a key role in setting up the photos that were taken of Rhett with many of the Yankees and the meeting with Jeter.
Rhett has been a Yankee fan his whole life. “I just have family in New Jersey and I just love New York,” said Rhett about why he’s a Yankee fan.
While Rhett got to meet and pose for photos with all the Yankee superstars, including Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. “But his hero is Derek,” Daria said.
So the highlight was meeting Jeter. “He wanted to be on the Yankees his whole life,” said Rhett about why he likes Jeter the most.
“He had tears in his eyes when he saw him walking down the stairs,” said Daria about Rhett when he was approached by Jeter. “There’s really no words for something like that.”
“It was the most awesome experience I’ve ever had,” Rhett said.
Rhett got a thorough tour of Yankee Stadium, including a chance to see Monument Park where all the Yankees’ legends are honored. He also saw all of the Yankees’ 26 World Championship trophies. “Yankee Stadium was big,” Rhett said.
During his time in New York, Rhett also received a chance to see all of New York’s most famous spots, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building and Central Park. And of course there was the chance to eat some New York pizza. “That was great pizza,” Daria said.
A highlight for Daria was seeing her son’s name on the scoreboard during the game. “I was waiting to snap that shot,” she said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
The Petrenkos also had excellent seats, sitting about 50 feet away from the Yankees dugout. The only scary part of the trip came when it poured the day of the game. But after a rain delay, the game began an hour late at 8 p.m. eastern time.
And of course the Yankees won 4-1 and Rhett can recite virtually every detail of the game. He recites Jeter going 2-for-3 and Bobby Abreu hitting a three-run home run down the right field line after Damon and Jeter reached base.
He recites the efforts of starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, Kyle Farnsworth coming in as the set-up man throwing 100 miles an hour and Mariano Rivera retiring the side in order to pick up the save.
And Rhett is obviously happy that the Yankees are playing well after their early season struggles.
“They’ve got it back together and getting back up there, catching up to the Red Sox,” he said.