Heartwarming stories are not difficult to find online. That’s mostly thanks to our communities’ emphasis on love for one’s neighbor. This is especially true when sports, the lifeblood of millions of Americans, are interwoven with incredible stories of both triumph and tragedy.
On Friday, one young American who experienced this phenomenon firsthand passed away. Ari Schultz, who went viral through a video his parents shot on their son’s 187th day of hospitalization for heart transplant surgery, succumbed to his illnesses on July 21st.
The reasons the video went viral were twofold. Number one, he’s just so darn cute. Number two, he was sporting a jersey of his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, and wielding a small baseball bat as if he was ready to step into the batter’s box at Fenway Park.
You can watch the heartwarming video below. Not even an oxygen tank the size of his entire body could stop Ari from taking a swing at a pitch from his father.
Ari made it home two days after the video was filmed. The Red Sox organization became aware of Ari’s story and, like any good ball club would, reached out to his family about attending a game. After all, Ari himself said that the first thing he wanted to do upon returning home was go to a baseball field.
Ari even got a visit from Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts and catcher Christian Vazquez at his home. Bogaerts recalled this visit fondly, saying to the Boston Globe, “I’ve never been around such an uplifting kid.”
This cheerful get together happened just one week before Ari, whose “critical aortic stenosis and evolving hypoplastic left heart syndrome” caused him to have a seizure, forced him to return to the hospital, and, eventually, was too much for the little man to endure. According to a Facebook page run by his parents, Ari passed away in the evening. He was listening to the Red Sox broadcast.
Unsurprisingly, an outpouring of support for Ari’s family followed the tragic news; his parents’ public announcement was shared well over 4,000 times on social media. The Red Sox tweeted this:
News like this is always difficult to process. Unless you’ve had a young family member pass away from illness, the pain is impossible to truly grasp. Ari’s story is a reminder of life’s precarious nature and the purity of a child’s unbridled joy. You can sense this from watching the original video of Ari, his face glowing with relief and excitement that he’ll finally be on his way to a field to play our national pastime.
The Red Sox had planned to host Ari at Fenway Park in August for the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Ari will not be able to live out this dream, but we can be sure that he’ll be up in Heaven, bat and ball in hand, smiling down on the baseball team from Boston that he loved so dearly.
Rest in peace, Ari, and GO SOX!