Ova­tion for Ja­son Boulais as re­liever hon­ored by MLB for mar­row do­na­tion

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY DEN­NIS WASZAK JR.

The best ova­tion of Ja­son Boulais’ ca­reer came a month af­ter his fi­nal pitch.

The Uni­ver­sity of South Carolina Beau­fort re­liever was hon­ored at the Ma­jor League Base­ball draft Mon­day night af­ter he sac­ri­ficed part of his se­nior sea­son to do­nate bone mar­row in an ef­fort to save a young boy in France.

“I never fath­omed any of this,” the 23-year-old Boulais said. “I never fath­omed that I would be a match.”

Com­mis­sioner Rob Manfred told Boulais’ story shortly be­fore an­nounc­ing Bos­ton’s pick at No. 7 over­all at MLB Net­work stu­dios. The tim­ing was in­ten­tional — Boulais is a big Red Sox fan.

“We did not want Ja­son’s in­cred­i­ble ges­ture to mark the end, or the last chap­ter, in his base­ball ca­reer,” Manfred said from the podium.

Seated in the crowd with his par­ents and sis­ter, Boulais stood and waved as many of the for­mer ma­jor lea­guers in at­ten­dance such as Ken Grif­fey Jr., Mike Sch­midt, An­dre Daw­son and John Smoltz gave him a stand­ing ova­tion.

“It was awe­some,” a beam­ing Boulais said. “Hall of Famers stand­ing up, clap­ping for me. Man, wow.”

It all started last Oc­to­ber when Boulais was on the South Carolina Beau­fort cam­pus to print out a pa­per for one of his classes when he no­ticed a tent out­side the school li­brary. “Be The Match,” op­er­ated by the Na­tional Mar­row Donor Pro­gram, was there look­ing for po­ten­tial donors.

“They came up to me,” Boulais re­called, “and they said, ‘Hey, you want to save a life?”’

In­trigued by the ques­tion, Boulais quickly re­sponded.

“I said, ‘Yeah, why not? Let’s see what this is all about,”’ he said. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Boulais had the in­side of his cheek swabbed a few times, and he was on his way.

“They were like, ‘We may never talk to you again,”’ Boulais said. “They said, ‘ We might call you in 10, 20 or 30 years. No one knows.”’

Well, it took only a few months, start­ing with a phone call he re­ceived in March. Boulais was told he was a pre­lim­i­nary match for a boy in France, so he took blood tests that later con­firmed that he was a per­fect match.

A pro­ce­dure to re­move Boulais’ bone mar­row through a nee­dle in his hip area, just a few inches from his spine, was sched­uled for April 9. He got word about three weeks be­fore that date that the young boy wasn’t do­ing well and the pro­ce­dure had to be pushed back.

Boulais’ base­ball sea­son had al­ready be­gun and the Sand Sharks were in Lake­land, Florida, to play South­east­ern Uni­ver­sity when he was given a new date: May 4. So, in­stead of trav­el­ing to the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment with his team­mates, Boulais headed to Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal in Wash­ing­ton to have the 45-minute pro­ce­dure.

The Sand Sharks lost in the Sun Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment, end­ing their sea­son — and Boulais’ play­ing ca­reer. The right-han­der from Port St. John, Florida, fin­ished 1-0 with an 8.38 ERA in 10 games. In his Twit­ter bio, Boulais calls him­self a “re­tired ath­lete.”

“I would give up my last game any day of my life to do this,” Boulais said. “I would do this again. I’d do it a mil­lion times over. There’s no re­grets. When I got that phone call, I was 100 per­cent in. Giv­ing a kid a sec­ond chance at life was all worth it to me.”

Be­cause of con­fi­den­tialty agree­ments, Boulais doesn’t know how the boy is faring. It might be at least a year be­fore he can find out, and that’s only if the boy’s fam­ily con­sents to re­leas­ing that in­for­ma­tion.

“I’m very cu­ri­ous,” he said. “I’ve seen the `Be The Match’ site, and I see sto­ries that they’ve posted about peo­ple who have do­nated to kids and they meet in the air­port and it just gives you chills.”

Boulais’ eyes turned red and welled up as he paused, think­ing about a sim­i­lar meet­ing some­day.

“I can just imag­ine meet­ing him in the air­port and he just runs up to me,” Boulais said. “It brings a tear to my eye right now.”

Boulais’ mother, Si­mone, shook her head as she thought about the jour­ney her son has made the last sev­eral months, from bone mar­row donor to be­ing hon­ored by many of the play­ers he grew up idol­iz­ing.

“I mean, this is just some­thing that makes you proud as a par­ent,” she said. “It’s just amaz­ing. I couldn’t be any prouder of my child.”

She then looked over to her son, who was sit­ting again next to his fa­ther and sis­ter, watch­ing as other play­ers’ names were called.

“Well, it would have been nice if he had been drafted, too,” Si­mone said with a smile, “but this is great.”

AP

Pitcher Mike Niko­rak, from Strouds­gurg High School in Strouds­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia, points to his name af­ter be­ing se­lected by the Colorado Rock­ies with the 27th se­lec­tion at the 2015 MLB base­ball draft in Se­cau­cus, New Jer­sey on Mon­day, June 8. MLB hon­ored Ja­son Boulais Mon­day at the draft for his bone mar­row do­na­tion.

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