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Hey Albert, got a minute? How a ten minute delay of game changed my opinion of Pujols

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Hey Albert, got a minute? How a ten minute delay of game changed my opinion of Pujols
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Hey Albert, got a minute? - How a ten minute delay of game changed my opinion of Pujols.

By Kevin OíConnor aka koconnor67

The dog days of summer are upon us. Major League Baseball has passed its notional half way point, with the All Star game and the trade deadline behind it, and is squarely focused on the grind of August games with few teams competing for divisional supremacy or a wild card position and a shot to play in October. The race is on for some teams. For others, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, each game provides these "also ran's" a chance to find their team identity, and attempt to define their season. There is no real race for position within the division. These games allow the rookies and newly acquired young "Buc's" a chance to showcase their talents and abilities, develop their skills at the major league level, and provide some baseball highs and lows for fans as the players strive to cement themselves as starters for the following season. I watch with hopeful anticipation as Garret Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, and others play with the kind of spirit and competitive drive expected of young ballplayers who want to succeed at the Big League level.

As I watch these August games, win or lose, I am generally pleased with the individual efforts, and occasionally surprised with the exceptional 4-6-3 double play, or some clutch hitting to knock in some runs, but not always. Tonight I watched as the NL Central leading Cardinals were tied at 4 runs a piece in the bottom of the 7th inning, with a young Pirates team that needs to learn how to put together a win. Garrett Jones was at the plate with 1 out and the count at 1-1. While I hoped he would put the ball in play, and move the runners at first and second, I was struck by something altogether different.

Jones fouled the next pitch sharply up the first base line and out of play. A fan leapt from his first row seat, leaned over the barricade in an attempt to shag the errant ball, and his momentum carried him like a pendulum slamming him face first onto the dirt surface of the track that surrounds the field in foul territory. As the middle aged man struggled to gain his feet, wearing his St. Louis red t-shirt, he stumbled and was caught by Albert Pujols. The power hitting first baseman was the first responder to the scene and helped the man to carefully lay back down as more help arrived. One could see the man was disoriented, the dirt of the track mixing with blood on his forehead now trickling down his nose amplified an already disconcerting sight, and the charge for his well being was being lead and managed by Pujols. Immediately Pujols had the man lie down to stabilize his back and neckline as trainers from both teams began to examine him. Within minutes the crowd grew from one, to fifty, as the EMTís arrived and began to work on the fan turned accident victim. Even Pirates President Frank Coonely came down to see if the man was alright. At first it seemed the victim may have been struck by the ball but replays clearly showed the ferocity with which his forehead buried itself into the dirt and the stress transferred to his neck. The triage continued for several minutes and Albert Pujols never left his position, at the top of the victims head, continuing to immobilize his neck.

I have never been a Pujols fan. Itís far too easy to dislike him when you see him take apart your team several times a year. I respect his talent but look for reasons not to root for his success on the field. Heís not a Pirate, not a Yankee, and not someone I follow. I figured he was another Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez, to be noticed but not revered, at least not by me. Iím disinterested with the vanity and elitism displayed by some of the superstars of this modern era. Tonight I saw something of Albert Pujols character that I could identify with and found a new respect for him as a human being. The leadership and compassion Pujols displayed during these urgent moments changed my opinion of him.

The EMTís were nearly finished with their work. The victim was placed on a stretcher. Albert Pujols could stop being the first responder and go back to being the first baseman. Almost ten minutes had elapsed since the last pitch. During this time the PNC Park security officers brought the victims son onto the field. He appeared to be in his mid twenties, dressed in Cardinal red, and also concerned for his father. One look at his face and it was obvious this young man had Downs Syndrome. I was immediately concerned for his well being while not knowing his fathers condition or the potential extent of the injury. Again Albert Pujols impressed me with his genuine consideration by spending a few moments with the victimsí son. Pujols appeared to provide a reassuring word as he touched the sons arm and smiled. This lasted for a long moment until the John Deere cart and the medical team drove off the field, with the man and his son, to the applause of the fans. The man gave the obligatory thumbs up as his stretcher rolled along the base line.

When play resumed I couldnít help but wonder about Albert Pujols. I wanted to know more about him as a person. In searching out some basic information on Pujols I found, that together with his wife Deidre, he founded the Pujols Family Foundation whoís mission is to benefit people with Downs Syndrome here in the States and help impoverished children in his native Dominican Republic. What a wonderful coincidence.

Garrett Jones proceeded to hit a grounder up the line that Pujols fielded for the second out. Ryan Doumit popped up to the third baseman DeRosa for the final out of the inning. The Cardinals took advantage of an infield error and scored a few runs putting the game out of reach for the home team. Word followed that the victim of the 7th inning foul ball was in stable condition at Allegheny General Hospital.

The Bucco's lost their fifth straight but all I could think about was how Albert Pujols aided that stranger, that fan, and the benevolence he displayed in that moment towards the victims son. Iíve identified some Albert Pujols cards on eBay. Iíll be following his career a little closer and getting something to add to my collection. He doesnít ever have to hit another home run and Iíll be rooting for Albert Pujols for what he did outside of the lines.

Updated 04-18-2010 at 01:14 AM by rainman67ko



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