Prado’s called-shot homer part of ‘heartwarming’ story

PHOENIX — It was a home run, but it was so much more.

It was a swing for friendship. For respect. For the bond that unites us all.

Martin Prado’s two-run home in the first inning of the Diamondbacks’ 18-inning victory in Philadelphia on Saturday night was a promise fulfilled. As Prado rounded second base at Citizens Bank Park, he pointed to the spot just past the visitors’ dugout where Josh Kane was stationed in his wheelchair, in seats Prado had arranged. The two have been friends since 2008, and they caught up before the game, Prado presenting Josh with an autographed bat before making a pledge.

“I gave him the bat and said, ‘Josh, I hope you enjoy the game, and I’m going to hit a homer and I’m going to point at you,” Prado recalled when he returned home Monday.

Babe Ruth has nothing on this called shot.

The ball landed a half-dozen rows into the left-field seats, although at first contact, Prado was not sure he had enough distance.

“I hit it pretty good. But it was up, and I couldn’t tell. After I crossed first base and saw that it was in the stands, I started thinking about Josh. I started pointing at him. He was so happy,” Prado said.

The satisfied smile on Prado’s face was almost as big.

“It makes me feel great. It makes me appreciate what I have. Just giving back a little piece of happiness to the people makes us appreciate more our job.”

Josh was born in Atlanta and grew up a Braves fan, listening to the games as his mother carpooled with another family for 60 miles four days a week to take Josh to his physical therapy. He was born with cerebral palsy. Josh was named the poster child for disability-services group Easter Seals in the Atlanta area, and the family took part in a ceremony at Turner Field. When Dale Murphy presented Josh with his poster, Josh recognized Murphy as his carpool buddy.

“He’s not a baseball player, he’s Travis’s daddy,” Josh said.

As Murphy said, “I’d rather be known as Travis’s daddy than a baseball player.”

Josh maintained his loyalty to Atlanta even when the family moved to Philadelphia in 1991, and the family went to as many games as they could when the Braves came to town. Josh befriended Jeff Francoeur in 2006 and met Prado at the same time, when Prado invited Josh and stepfather Ed Ford into the Braves’ clubhouse two hours before a game.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship, with Prado suggesting that Josh add spinners to his power wheelchair. A big collector, Josh has a room full of Braves memorabilia that includes signed jerseys from Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Francoeur. But none may mean more than the balls, batting gloves, wristbands and hats signed by Prado, who makes it a point to speak to Josh every time they are in the park together.

When the Diamondbacks went to Philadelphia for their only visit over the weekend, Prado arranged three field passes and tickets to the Saturday game. Josh, a high school friend and his wife used the seats, and they stayed all 18 innings of the D-backs’ 12-7 victory.

As Prado rounded the bases after his homer in the first, it was a little hard to tell where he was pointing. Until you saw the emotion on Josh’s face and the D-backs cap on his head.

“Martin is a quality person who has made Josh a very happy young man, but more than that, Martin just beams every time he sees Josh,” Ford said. “I’ve seen it many times before. These two young men truly appreciate each other, Martin because, as he said, ‘He treats me like a human being, not a professional ballplayer.’ What these athletes do for my son is heartwarming.”

Prado sees it another way.

“That’s a blessing,” he said.