Dakota Butteris’s smile widened and his feet moved swifter as each base appeared before his eyes. The Seattle Mariner Moose got the Bothell boy off and running at home plate and then trotted over to third base to catch the 10-year-old on his way around the sacks.
It was 90 feet of pure joy for the youngster who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017.
Butteris ran the bases twice on Monday morning to prepare for his time in the spotlight in front of thousands of fans on Thursday when the M’s will host the world champion Boston Red Sox in the teams’ Major League Baseball opener. Butteris will touch ‘em all one more time before the game as part of his Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington wish.
Jessica Mathews, Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington senior communications and marketing manager, said it’s the 20th year a local wish kid has run the bases on opening day. Butteris will be the first runner to do so at the newly named T-Mobile Park.
“This is a pretty exciting opportunity to still really stay part of the sport, stay part of the game even though he can’t be out there with his teammates,” Mathews said. The baserunning journey is Butteris’s wish enhancement as he went on his main wish trip last year to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Darrin Butteris, Dakota’s dad, told his son after Monday’s practice: “When you’re 40 years old, you can say, ‘Dude, I was the first one to run the bases (at T-Mobile Park).’”
Mom Doris Guerrero beamed with pride at her son’s strength to get out on the field and run around again. It was awesome to see her boy excited and smiling and waving, she said.
“It’s just these little things that inspire him and give him hope. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Make-A-Wish and the Mariners,” Darrin added.
Dakota — who received a Mariner’s jersey with his last name emblazoned on the back and had his name splashed on the mammoth message board — said he felt satisfied with his running on Monday and thought about his favorite M’s Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez and Dee Gordon during his time on the field.
“It feels good because I’ve never done it in a long time,” Dakota said about returning to the baseball diamond after some time off for treatment.
The pitcher added about one of his favorite parts of playing baseball, “Sometimes just playing with my friends is very good.”
Dakota is currently in the maintenance phase of the treatment, Doris said, and he gets monthly chemotherapy infusions through a port that was placed into his upper left chest. He receives daily oral chemo and steroids, along with other medications to treat the symptoms from those parts of the treatment.
“So far, so good, he’s been tolerating it well,” said Doris, noting that Dakota is a year-plus in remission and has two years of treatment remaining. The fourth-grader is back at school full time at Woodside Elementary in Bothell after missing almost the whole school year in 2017-2018.
Dakota will start playing basketball this week at the local Y, but doesn’t have the stamina to compete in Little League baseball, which is more competitive. He has been working on his pitching and batting skills, his parents said.
“We kind of jumped at doing it when we got the email from Make-A-Wish. He hasn’t been able to play baseball and that was his favorite sport before getting treatment,” said Doris, noting that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “It’s unfortunate that we get this experience because he’s sick, but he got excited and we get to see him run around.”
The family has been Mariner fans forever and Darrin said it was an indescribable feeling to spend some time on the “same field they do the magic on.” It was emotional and it was surreal, Darrin added while glancing at Dakota. He’s a strong boy with tons of support from Make-A-Wish, Seattle Children’s and the cities of Bothell and Mill Creek, dad said.
Dakota began playing T-ball at Mill Creek Little League, and the league raised funds for his treatment with a home run derby at a recent game.
“We’re blessed. It’s a beautiful community and I wouldn’t wanna live anywhere else,” said Darrin, who thanked all of their supporters.