David Padilla didn’t hesitate to rate meeting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as one of the top moments of his young life.
It ranks right up there with hitting his first home run in Little League as a 12-year-old.
“Oh, yeah,” Padilla said. “Definitely top two.”
Around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Wilson walked into Padilla’s private room at Seattle Children’s Hospital and made his dream of meeting the star rookie quarterback come true. His first words to the cancer-stricken 17-year-old Timberline High School senior baseball star: “Hey, buddy, how are you doing?”
“He walked in,” Padilla said, “and it was so surprising. I was nervous.”
Wilson, less than 48 hours removed from Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game, spent almost an hour talking with Padilla and also autographing a handful of items for him, including a football and a photo. “He was busy,” said Kari Padilla, David’s mother.
They talked about everything from Padilla’s battle with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, to their love of baseball. Wilson played parts of two seasons in the Colorado Rockies organization before leaving the Single-A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in June 2011 to transfer to Wisconsin for his senior season of football.
Padilla is a two-time all-3A Narrows League baseball player for the Blazers. As a junior, he batted .304 with 21 hits and a team-high 22 RBI.
Padilla meeting Wilson might not have happened if it wasn’t for social media websites Twitter and Facebook. On Saturday, Padilla’s sister, Hannah, and his girlfriend, Amber Lewis, posted tweets with the hashtag #PadillaNeedsTheDanger (Wilson’s Twitter handle is @DangeRussWilson).
It quickly took off and turned into a national plea to get the rookie quarterback to visit Padilla during his weekly visits to the hospital.
Each Tuesday during the NFL season, Wilson and his wife, Ashton, visited children at the hospital. However, the Wilsons hadn’t been on Padilla’s floor.
In October, Padilla was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left leg after a summer of baseball filled with pain, Kari Padilla said. It reached a point where her son, an outfielder, pulled himself out of a summer baseball game because the pain was so excruciating.
“We knew something was seriously wrong at that point,” Kari Padilla said.
A tumor was recently removed and David Padilla will have chemotherapy treatments for the next five months.
Sister Hannah, a freshman at Washington State University who graduated from Timberline in 2012, said she was inspired to turn to Twitter and Facebook after a friend’s cancer-stricken friend met members of the Seahawks through the same avenue – social media.
That’s when she and Lewis, also a 2012 Timberline graduate now studying at the University of Washington-Bothell, joined forces to send out the initial tweets and posts with the hashtag #PadillaNeedsTheDanger around 7 p.m. Saturday.
“We were like, ‘If her group of friends can do it, we can get David to meet Russell Wilson,’ ” Hannah Padilla said. “We were thinking of hashtags and what people could retweet.”
Soon, the number of tweets and retweets with that hashtag grew into the thousands by Monday. And just before midnight Monday, Wilson tweeted, “#PadillaNeedsTheDanger I will be there just to come see you!”
The immediate response on Twitter was still a shock for Hannah Padilla, who watched Wilson meet her brother via Skype in Pullman.
“We didn’t know we had that many connections around the state,” Hannah Padilla said. “It was amazing.”Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick