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08/08/09 4:41 PM ET

Wish Upon a Hero grants special wish

Longtime fan watches Yanks in person for first time

NEW YORK -- Jim Villareale was at work on Saturday morning, just like every week, battling the August heat at a Mobile gas station in Rochester, N.Y. Despite a terminal cancer diagnosis, Villareale has continued to value diligence and responsibility. Being sick is no excuse for laziness.

Maybe that's why the idea of leaving the job early seemed so foreign. Even when his family showed up with the surprise of a lifetime. Clorinda Villareale, Jim's wife, spent the past two weeks arranging an impromptu journey to New York so her husband could see a game at Yankee Stadium for the first time.

Clorinda explained to a bewildered Jim that quitting time had come quicker than usual on Saturday. They had to rush to the airport. He was going to see his favorite team take on the Red Sox that afternoon.

"No I'm not," Jim Villareale recalled saying. "I have to work."

Eventually, he relented, and the family arrived in time for the game. Jim has been fighting cancer for several years, and Clorinda wanted to ensure he had the opportunity to see Yankee Stadium. She contacted the Wish Upon a Hero Foundation -- an online community allowing people to make and grant wishes -- and the Villareales were ultimately invited to the game.

As an even greater surprise, when the Yankees heard Jim Villareale's story, they gave the family field passes to watch batting practice from just outside the dugout. Manager Joe Girardi and pitchers Andy Pettitte and Phil Coke were among the team personnel who greeted Jim, his wife and two sons before the game.

But that almost didn't matter. Jim finally had the opportunity to see his beloved Yankees play in person. That was what mattered.

"It's indescribable," he said. "I don't even care about meeting the players. Just being here for the game is more than enough."

"That would just be the frosting on the cake," Clorinda added.

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.