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Foundation Hosts Third Home-Run Derby and All-Star Game

June 17, 2010

By Erin Brooks

The morning downpours turned into a blazing sun on the afternoon of June 17th as over 100 participants gathered at the Miracle Field for their chance to ‘hit like Albert’.  The third Home-Run Derby totaled six home runs, one of which, slammed by Daniel Haynes, hit the scoreboard and created a huge uproar among the crowd.  While coached and cheered on by over 40 volunteers, each participant walked up to the plate, many called their shot, swung the bat, hit the ball, and ran the bases, arms in the air while the hoots and hollers of family and friends filled the stadium.

“This is one of my favorite events because the entire family can attend and you can invite anybody to come out and watch as the abilities of these participants with Down syndrome are showcased,” says Todd Perry, Executive Director/CEO of The Pujols Family Foundation.

After each participant had their moment in the spotlight, they headed down to have their photograph taken by Lace Images and enjoy some good food and sweet tea donated by McAlister’s Deli.  As the last few home runs were being hit at the Derby, the fun was just beginning and the crowd grew larger.  Anticipation began to flood the stands.  It was what everyone had been waiting for… Albert’s All Stars were back and better than ever.  With 56 kids trying out and 13 who were chosen to represent the Down syndrome community, the All-Stars brought their ‘A-Game’ and their talents gave St. Louis something to talk about.

It is often said, ‘third time’s a charm’ and this proved to be true for the All Stars in their fight to beat their ‘back-in-black’ opponents, The Ellisville Bulldogs in this year’s event.  However, their story does not fully see eye-to-eye with the popular phrase, seeing as the first year was also a charm…as was the second…and now the third.  The heat from the sun is nothing compared to the All-Stars. They are on fire! The excitement began with the first pitch, thrown by special guest, Stan ‘The Man’ Musial who was accompanied by Albert Pujols, to Bulldog catcher, Brendan Jaspers and we were off.  Guest pitcher and former Cardinals player, Al Hrabosky, couldn’t tame the All-Stars and after back-to-back home runs, Hrabosky was replaced by fellow former Cardinals pitcher, Andy Benes.  While the Bulldogs were a force to be reckoned with, nobody could stop All-Star, Michael Vosevich, as he put away two home runs keeping the score neck and neck.

As the crowd eagerly anticipated some big hits by the All Stars in the bottom of the third and final inning, the Bulldogs held their breath, hoping for a second chance to make a comeback.  Their hopes were fulfilled when the third out was made and an extra inning was granted, but the All-Stars weren’t intimidated.  Their confidence and contagious enthusiasm led them boldly into the 4th inning.

After some good plays and hard hits, Vosevich again stepped up to the plate, un-aware of the pivotal moment that was to come.  With the bases loaded and the liveliness of pumped up fans in the background increased, the pressure built and Benes broke, throwing a wild pitch and leaving the All-Stars with a joyous victory! The final score read 24-23 and Albert’s All-Stars had done it again.

Title sponsor Simons Jewelers, as well as Rawlings, the City of Chesterfield, Aqua Systems, Petropolis and Clear Channel Radio played a huge part in helping this day be one that will always be remembered for these extraordinary participants.

Former Cardinals players Jack Clark, John Mabry, Mike Matheny, Kerry Robinson, and Andy Benes and current Cardinals, Tony LaRussa and Skip Schumaker also came out to support and help in defending the All-Stars championship name. But the scoreboard, celebrities and sponsors were not the main focus for most on this special day; rather, the participants were the ones who sealed the deal.

“You have a legend like Stan Musial and future Hall-of-Famers like Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, but still nobody can upstage the All-Stars.  That’s the beauty of the event.  No matter who we bring out on that field, Albert’s All-Stars are still why we are there.  Their star shines the brightest and they are the reason for the whole day” Perry says.

With beaming smiles and proud family and friend supporters, these participants, who have so often been told they ‘can’t’, have proved yet again that they not only ‘can’, but they ‘can’ with more joy, humility, and love than most other athletes out there.  ‘Disability’ is no longer a primary adjective in the vocabulary of those who come in contact with these stars.  Instead, their ability is what they are known, admired and respected for.  Awareness is being raised and assumptions are shattering.  The Home-Run Derby participants and Albert’s All-Stars have turned the tide.  While the third time was indeed a charm and they seem to be on fire … they are just getting warmed up.  Can you handle the heat?

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June 17, 2010
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