Eli Velasquez’s love of baseball runs as deep as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout does to rob opponents of base hits.
For instance, Eli, 7, is savvy enough to give more than 36,000 fans a real-time “heads up” warning about an oncoming foul ball during his stint as a public address announcer at a recent Angel Stadium of Anaheim game.
That thrill was one highlight of his experience in ESPN’s “My Wish” series, the latest installment debuting Sunday, July 16, presented during the 8 a.m. SportsCenter. Watch an excerpt from the feature above and the trailer for the series in the sidebar below.
Eli was born with a heart condition that required multiple surgeries. For his wish, the Corsicana, Texas, native meets and gets one-on-one coaching from his favorite player, Trout, the three-time American League MVP, in California.
Associate producer Laura Ramirez documented the interaction between Velasquez and Trout in May. She was excited to be back in the field and on her second assignment since returning from maternity leave in April. She answered some questions about the storytelling and ESPN Features Unit’s teamwork for Front Row.
What might appeal to fans most about Eli’s “Wish” and Trout’s role?
The thing that will appeal most to fans is the genuine excitement and fun that Eli was having out there with Mike and the rest of the team. It was evident that entire day because Mike and the Angels were so welcoming to Eli and made him feel like part of the team.
You could immediately tell Eli was being himself and not shy around the team. And that is what you want to see as a viewer, these kids and their idols making a connection and being genuine with each other.
What were some of the challenges involved in the storytelling?
You have to tell the backstory and give that part its due. While the wish day is fun and exciting, the powerful and challenging part is telling the viewer about Eli’s journey.
While Eli’s story is his own, many others, both parents and children, can connect to the struggles and obstacles he has had to overcome with his heart condition. So I just wanted to make sure I did that part justice.
What should viewers know about the teamwork in producing these features?
It is a team effort all around. The reveal day would not have happened without a colleague, producer Jon Fish, stepping in to field produce since I couldn’t travel at the last minute due to illness.
But Jon did a tremendous job in the field after getting 48 hours’ notice, which speaks volumes about the feature producers in the group and their ability to step in and handle shoots.
What scene or moment from Eli’s “Wish” experience do you wish you had room to include?
One small moment that I really loved witnessing during filming was when Eli was in the announcers’ booth during the game [May 28, Miami at Los Angeles].
He was there to announce a few players as they came up to bat, and during one at-bat, a foul ball was hit near the booth. Without hesitation, Eli shouted, “heads up.”
It was very subtle, but it showed how much this kid loves baseball and how much he is around it.