DETROIT -- On Saturday, Paul Sipiala and his family experienced a dream day for any Tigers fan at Comerica Park thanks to a partnership between the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Tigers' Dreams Come True Foundation and Frito Lay.The large scar on the right calf of 9-year-old Paul can be described in many ways. As a resident of Hawaii, he sometimes likes to say a shark got the best of him. He also describes it as a crater, a credit to the volcanoes around his home state. Really, the scar came as a result of Synovial Sarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the soft tissues of the body. Paul had the cancer removed in October, shortly after being diagnosed, and he is now cancer-free. But Paul's battle with cancer didn't cause him to give up the game he loves. He's played baseball since he was 2 and continued playing despite his diagnosis. It may seam strange for a young boy from Hawaii to be an avid Tigers fan. But, as so often is seen in baseball, being a fan of a team often travels through the bloodlines. Such is the case for Paul, whose father, Mitch, grew up in Saginaw, Mich., before moving to Hawaii. Although the family's home in Kailua-Kona is upwards of 4,000 miles from Detroit, Mitch still keeps a close eye on the Tigers -- a habit that has rubbed off on his son. As they made their way to the Motor City, Mitch did his best to keep the details of Saturday's fun-filled afternoon from his son. But he couldn't help telling him a few details. "It was a little tough keeping it a surprise." Mitch said. "But we didn't know many details. We knew enough to where he'd have a great time. We didn't want him to be let down by anything that may not have happened. But it's been a great experience and more than we could have expected. "We were actually talking about it earlier and we'd rather not be here. We are only here as a result of his disease. Now that we are, we are going to make the most of it. We are very grateful to a lot of people that have supported his wish along the way." Mitch had to inform his son that he'd be throwing the ceremonial first pitch on Saturday. That way he could start practicing his delivery in the backyard. Sure enough, the practice paid off and Paul tossed a strike to Brennan Boesch and gave high-fives to several people as climbed the stands and returned to his seat. "I wasn't that nervous," Paul said. "But throwing the first pitch was the best part of the day." Paul also knew he'd meet his favorite Tigers player, Miguel Cabrera, during batting practice. But he didn't know he would also meet more than 10 other players before the game. Luckily, Paul brought several of his own Little League playing cards to give the Tigers in exchange for autographs. Tigers closer Jose Valverde gave Paul a signed jersey, glove and ball. Cabrera also chipped in with an autographed bat. "That one will be going in a glass case," Paul said of Cabrera's bat. While meeting several players on the team was no doubt an exciting experience for Paul, he was just as happy to see some familiar faces. More than 40 family members and friends were able to make it out to Comerica Park on Saturday to see Paul, most of whom hadn't seen him since his diagnosis. "The fact that he could share it with his family was really one of the overriding things in deciding on the dream," Mitch said. "He wanted to make sure family members he hadn't seen in a while could experience it with him." Paul's parents got in touch with the Make-A-Wish foundation, who then contacted the Tigers to help set up the fun-filled day. Frito Lays also sponsored Paul's first pitch and allowed his family to sit in the dugout to watch the postgame fireworks. "We found out that Paul wanted to come out here and he wants to meet the Tigers," said Susan Smith, the community development director for Make-A-Wish. "We wanted to make it happen so we called the Tigers and they helped set it up. It's been great to see how excited Paul has been all day today." Paul has been declared cancer-free and, amazingly, his baseball career wasn't interrupted. But he was a little bit shy to talk about his former team, the Kona Yankees. Instead of bringing his Yankees card to give to Tigers players, he decided to bring his card from last year when he played for the Bears -- just so they didn't get the wrong impression. "Don't mention that to anyone," Paul said of his time in the pinstripes. "I'm not a Yankees fan. I'm a Tigers fan."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.