SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- Every day, 9-year-old Loren Smith pretends to play for his favorite team, the Oakland A's, while slugging at home plate. But his real home is gone, reduced to inches of ash, after
Loren's father, Tait, tried to protect the house with a hose and "fought like crazy," but the flames were too fierce.
"I just ran around the house and I just watched everything burn," Tait said.
They lost everything, including Loren's treasured collection of baseball cards and other memorabilia.
"The day after the fire, he was, you know, just so heartbroken and crying and, you know, 'I lost this, I lost that, you know, my Rickey Henderson baseball,'" Tait recounted.
Loren's aunt suggested he write to his favorite team and tell them what happened.
"To the Oakland A's," he wrote, "I love watching your A's games and I want to be an A's player." He described playing baseball in his backyard all day, and how in his imaginary games the A's "won six World Series in a row."
"I had every single A's card from 2000 to now... and it all burned up. So sad," Loren wrote.
The A's answered in person.
The A's president Dave Kaval surprised Loren Friday along with the team's catcher, Bruce Maxwell. They brought Loren memorabilia from the A's, other teams and from fans who read the letter.
But the team didn't stop there.
"We want to make sure that you get out to the Coliseum this year, too, so we got you full season tickets," Kaval said. "Have you ever thrown out the first pitch in a baseball game?"
"No," Loren said.
"You want to do it next year?" Kaval asked.
"Yeah!" Loren responded.
"Game on," Kaval said.
Loren played catch with Maxwell, and his smile said it all.
"It was an honor to meet Maxwell up close," Loren said.
"Bruce told us you had a really good arm," Diaz said.
"I wasn't throwing hard to him 'cause he said it was the post season," Loren said.
"You were taking it easy on him?" Diaz asked, laughing.
"Yeah," Loren replied.
When Maxwell read Loren's letter, he said he had to stop midway because he got emotional.
"To see that he's still in a positive light within himself and his family, is something that's inspirational to a lot of people," Maxwell said.
Loren wanted to share that positivity – and his gifts – with his friends.
"They lost their homes too. And you gotta give away," Loren said. "My other friend lost his house entirely and he had some really valuable stuff. And I just want to give away because I have too much and I don't have anywhere to put it."
Now he just has one more wish.
"I want the A's to make it to the World Series again. Well, let's say it's been a long time," Loren said.
It's been almost 30 years. The A's may be underdogs, but Loren said they've taught him how to step up to the plate, no matter what life throws at you.
A GoFundMe page has been created for the Smith family.