Posada using experience to help others
Catcher's son's birth defect prompts Clemente Award nominee
Five years ago, the baseball world was introduced to the son of Yankees catcher Jorge Posada; young Jorge Luis trotting onto the field at the All-Star Game, his face striped with eye black and a pinstriped number 20 on his back. Just like dad.
The warm moment is a family highlight for the Posadas, much preferable to the many stressful hours Jorge and his wife, Laura, have spent pacing hospital waiting rooms.
Jorge Luis was born with craniosynostosis, a birth defect of the brain characterized by the premature closure of one or more cranial sutures -- the fibrous joints between the bones of the skull -- before brain growth is complete.
He underwent his first major surgery as an infant and has had a total of eight operations, the most recent of which was last December in New York. Today, Posada proudly says, Jorge Luis is "up and about, like any normal kid." The Posadas have a 5-year-old daughter, Paulina, who is unaffected by the condition.
Mindful that other families have been presented with the same issues and difficulties, the Jorge Posada Foundation was launched in 2000, specifically to aid parents and children who are dealing with craniosynostosis, the cause of which remains unknown.
"When it's something so close to you and meaningful to you, I think it's important to you," Posada said. "This is something I've experienced. It's easier to really put a foundation together and really go after it, to try and help out."
Posada's contributions toward civic involvement and community endeavors have earned him nomination for the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award. The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team.
It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
According to Posada's Web site, goals of the foundation's programs include providing financial assistance for families dealing with craniosynostosis, emotional support through a family support network and encouraging further research of the medical condition.
"You want to put everything together and try to do it the right way, with the effort and timing," Posada said. "I think what we've done so far is keep growing every year. I want to be able to help out not only financially, but also mentally. Even when families have the money for the surgeries, we're able to have people for them to talk to, helping them know what they are going to be looking forward to."
The foundation hosts a number of events to raise awareness and funds throughout the calendar year, and in January, held its first annual "Family Day" in Puerto Rico. Posada said he is looking forward to making an even bigger impact at a second Puerto Rico event upcoming this offseason.
"Your priorities do change when something like this happens," Posada said. "You look at things that are right in front of you. You're able to see and experience the tough times before the operations and during them. The first one was really, really tough. Now, we're a little bit used to it, so we try to help out the families and tell them what to expect."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.