Thursday, September 26, 2013
Carlos Beltran a Class Act
Carlos Beltran at this moment just might have what it takes to get into the Hall of Fame. He is also a candidate for this years Roberto Clemente award. Besides the attention Carlos receives as one of the elite players at his age he is also a hero. How many of us have Baseball Hero's? As a kid I had Ted Simmons, Andy Van Slyke and Ozzie Smith but I never had a chance to meet them. Well a friend of mine had that chance meeting. Here is the article that Rob Rains had wrote about a friend of mine, Gilbert Medina and Carlos Beltran......enjoy!
Gilbert Medina had spent the entire game in his seat in the second row of the stands in right field at Busch Stadium trying to get the attention of Carlos Beltran, yelling to him in Spanish so much he admits he probably had annoyed many of the other fans sitting around him.
Finally, before the start of the ninth inning as Beltran was playing catch, Medina decided to yell at Beltran one more time – this time with a phrase special to people from Puerto Rico – “Boricua bragao” - and this time, Beltran heard him, turned toward the stands, and smiled.
Medina could hardly believe what happened next. Beltran took the baseball, motioned to Medina, and tossed it to him.
Medina, a 47-year-old man who spent 15 years living in Puerto Rico and additional years living in New York when Beltran played for the Mets, was overjoyed. He had a personal souvenir from a man he had admired for years, not only because of his baseball ability but because of his personal character.
But there is more to this story, more about the bond that ties fans to players, and about the impact that a simple act by a player can have on someone’s life.
Medina is a teaching assistant at Southview School in the Special School District in St. Louis County, working with students of various ages with a variety of disabilities. He also is a student at Fontbonne University, working toward a degree in special education.
Medina has his own medical challenges as well. He has had two brain surgeries in the last five years because of a non-cancerous tumor on his optic nerve. The second surgery in November 2010 resulted in his endocrine system shutting down, prompting Medina’s doctor to tell him, “I can’t medically account for why you’re still alive.” Medina has to take 28 different pills a day to keep his body functioning.
He has never lost his strong faith, however, or his positive outlook on life, and he could not believe his good fortune when his favorite baseball player, Beltran, signed as a free agent with the Cardinals before the 2012 season.
It was early in the year when Medina went to Busch Stadium and got closer to Beltran than he ever thought possible. He was with his fiancé, Paula Berner, who is a teacher at Litszinger School, also in the Special School District.
Last summer, Berner shared the story with Cardinals’ broadcaster Dan McLaughlin when she was helping him shoot a video for his golf tournament benefitting the Special Education Foundation. He made arrangements for Medina and Berner to come on the field before a game and a chance to meet Beltran and get his special baseball autographed.
Medina considered that moment one of the greatest days of his life and told that to Beltran. But he was in shock when Beltran had a personal message back for him.
“He said, ‘Relax my brother, with all of the great things that God has in store for you in the coming years, when you look back, this moment is going to be nothing,’” Medina said. “This hero of mine had no clue of my past and the struggles I’ve had with brain tumors, surgeries, etc. He also had no idea of my strong faith, and that I fully believe that God has my back on everything.
“I had chills and was moved to tears. We shared small talk about our island while he autographed my ball. We shook hands and I walked away on cloud nine, my feet barely touching the ground.”
Beltran did not know any of Medina’s background, or his personal medical struggles. That was not the reason he reached out to him; he did it as a gesture of good will.
“Honestly, I do know what kind of a role we play,” Beltran said this week. “We have to come to the ballpark every day and take care of our own things and sometimes we forget about it. It’s always good every time you can impact somebody by shaking hands, saying something positive or even signing an autograph.
“It’s a big blessing. God has put us in a position where we can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Even though Beltran had never met or talked with Medina before, he felt that bond between them – and he knows God was with them at their meeting, helping Beltran know what to say to a stranger, but also a fan, and a friend.
“Sometimes when you get the opportunity to sit down with a fan or have an opportunity to talk with them for a little bit, I like to give my advice,” Beltran said. “For me I have always been like that. I come from a humble family and I know what it is to have nothing, and what it means to be successful and have what I have right now. At the same time I understand that God has given me this opportunity, and allowed me to be where I am right now.
“I always try to encourage people in a positive way and in their faith.”
It is no surprise to Medina that Beltran is the Cardinals’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente award, presented annually by Major League Baseball, to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” It honors the former Hall of Fame outfielder, a Puerto Rico native, and Beltran’s idol as a young boy living on the island.
This year’s winner will be announced at the World Series.
“In today’s age of gilded superstars and prima donnas, Carlos Beltran still maintains a down to earth, approachable aura,” Medina said. “He’s a man who has given back to his homeland, funding scholarships and founding a baseball school where not only sports but academics are strongly emphasized.
“He’s the kind of guy who I would love to call a friend.”