BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- At the 24th annual ETTA Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Wednesday night, the Jose Pujols Foundation received the Community Philanthropy Award, and accepting was Joc Pederson and his older brother, Champ.A Dodgers outfielder and his brother with Down Syndrome accepting an award for an
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- At the 24th annual ETTA Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Wednesday night, the Jose Pujols Foundation received the Community Philanthropy Award, and accepting was Joc Pederson and his older brother, Champ.
A Dodgers outfielder and his brother with Down Syndrome accepting an award for an Angels slugger is a baseball version of the inclusion at the core of the mission of ETTA, a non-profit that focuses on creating a community for adults with special needs, executive director Michael Held said.
"We make it possible for families with special needs to have a rich, wonderful life together living in Los Angeles," said Held. "We're honoring the Albert Pujols Foundation, which is well known for its commitment to children with disabilities and special needs."
The ties that bind Pujols and the Pedersons were on display at the 2015 Home Run Derby, when Pujols was edged by Joc, 12-11. Pujols gave him a congratulatory hug, then lifted up Champ with a gentle and touching bear hug. Pujols has a daughter with Down Syndrome.
"Albert is a mentor to me on the baseball field and in the way he handles himself off the field," said Joc, whose roller-coaster season included three World Series home runs and will be capped by his wedding next month. "Albert's foundation does so many great things in the community, and I'm happy to be here supporting him. He does a lot for people that see the world a little different."
Said Champ, "Pujols is someone I care about. He is a great human being. He's an Angel, not a Dodger, and I'm still a Dodger fan, but I'm also an Albert fan. He gave me a jersey."
Joc said he was pleased to be asked to accept on Pujols' behalf because of the work the slugger's foundation does on behalf of those with Down Syndrome.
"Having a brother with a disability really opens your eyes and you realize that people look at them differently. People think they're incapable, just not able to do things," Joc said. "Maybe they're not capable of doing everything we can do, but some of them are the most intelligent people I know. When they have tasks that are manageable, they execute them perfectly. Sometimes it's harder for them to get jobs in the real world, so organizations like these that can help give them those opportunities to enjoy some of life like the rest of us."
Champ said one of his great highlights was being asked by the Dodgers to deliver the pregame "It's time for Dodger baseball" prior to Game 1 of the World Series.
"Champ has a lot of passion, always has a lot of passion in life," said Joc. "That rubs off on people in a positive way. Dave Roberts likes to have that positive energy of Champ's, to keep everyone in perspective that we get to play a game that we love. And it really was something big for Champ. [Dodgers exec] Lon Rosen asked him, and he's helped our family a lot. It was a special moment and you saw the stadium light up and get loud, and he enjoyed every moment of it."
Champ hopes his brother's team can give him another shot at firing up the Dodger Stadium crowd before a postseason game.
"I can't wait," said Champ. "I'll be more than happy to do it again."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.