DETROIT -- Justin Verlander was inspired so much by Johnny Agar's story that he wanted the Tigers Winter Caravan to swing through Grand Rapids, Mich., to meet him last offseason. Six months after the Tigers visited Agar near his hometown, the Agars visited Verlander's office Wednesday as his guests for a Tigers game.
It wasn't their first trip to see the Tigers, but it was their first game in Verlander's suite.
Agar is a 19-year-old who has fought cerebral palsy, but trained and pushed himself to step out of his wheelchair and complete the final mile of a 5K race last summer in their hometown of Rockford, Mich. His father, former Tigers Minor League pitcher Jeff Agar, pushed him in his wheelchair for the first part of the race before proudly watching him complete the journey.
They just completed the same race this summer, and they've made a full marathon their next goal, with Johnny completing the final mile. The Tigers, however, are Johnny's summer passion.
The entire family came down for batting practice, where Verlander posed for pictures and had a gift for Johnny.
"It was great," Verlander said of the visit. "He inspired me with the courage he's shown and what he's been doing. I just wanted the chance to meet him. I saw on [television] he was wearing my shirt, and I thought that was really neat. I just wanted to meet him and say hi and get to know him."
Verlander didn't make the caravan visit in January while recovering from core muscle surgery. Joba Chamberlain met Johnny and the family at the caravan stop.
"Man, they'll let anybody in here," he joked with Johnny.
They chatted nearly an hour before Chamberlain had to get ready for the game. For Johnny, who would like to cover baseball one day, it was a huge thrill.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.