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MLB pauses to celebrate donor's sacrifice

Commissioner Manfred shares story of former player Boulais' marrow transplant

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- On the first night of the 2015 MLB Draft, one of the largest ovations went to a baseball player in attendance who will not be playing ball for a living.

Jason Boulais will go back home to Cocoa Beach, Fla., where he is working with his father in construction. Then he will start taking real estate classes next month with the ambition of flipping houses and making a living working for himself.

And his incredible story of giving will go on, one that included recognition on Monday by Commissioner Rob Manfred as a special guest of Major League Baseball.

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"I don't want all the promoting," Boulais said, humbly. "Everyone's talking about, 'Oh, I see you on this, I see you on that.' I don't want that necessarily to be the light on me; I want the light to be on Be The Match, and get that promoted more."

Boulais was pitching last October as a senior for the University of South Carolina at Beaufort when real life became more important than his next outing. Be The Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation, was on his campus. He decided to have his cheek swabbed, thus entering a donor pool in a bone marrow registry.

In February, Boulais was told that he was a match for a 5-year-old boy in France who needed a marrow transplant. After testing a blood sample that Boulais provided, it was determined that the pitcher was in fact the boy's best hope to live. Boulais' career ended 10 appearances into his senior season as he underwent the procedure -- but it started a wave of interest in Be The Match, one that should be profound thanks to what happened on Monday.

Video: Berra on college pitcher Boulais' selfless act

While Boulais has completed a two-week recovery from the procedure and is now 100 percent healthy, he said he does not expect to be drafted this week. He did indicate, however, that he would plan to sign and play professionally if a club does select him.

"The simple fact is, we did not want Jason's incredible gesture to mark the end or the last chapter in his baseball career," Manfred said in pausing to recognize Boulais right before announcing the selection by Boston -- Boulais' favorite team -- at No. 7 overall.

"In front of so many greats of our game, and everyone watching at home, all of us want to commend Jason for his extraordinary generosity. Jason, we're proud to call you a member of the baseball family, and Major League Baseball thanks you."

Boulais was in the grandstand seats at MLB Network's Studio 42, accompanied by his parents, Joseph and Simone, and his sister Sarah. The 60 club representatives on the floor, including legends galore, turned and stood to applaud him. So did the four prep players with whom Boulais spent the day sightseeing as MLB's special guest.

"I was very happy that it was during the Red Sox pick where they mentioned me, as it was my favorite team," Boulais said. "I'm just glad they were able to spread the word a little bit more about Be The Match, to get it out on national TV, because the more people that see it, the better chance someone will sign up. The more people sign up, the better the chance there is for people to save a life. It's just a good thing."

"I really got the chills tonight when he was announced again," said Boulais' mother, sitting next to her son as the Draft went on. "It's just such an amazing story. Every time I read it or hear it, it's like, 'Wow, my son did this and saved somebody's life.' I can't wait to meet that little child one day, and hopefully he's doing well right now. Every single day we are thinking about him."

While Jason was being interviewed backstage during the event, Brendan Rodgers, picked No. 3 overall by the Rockies, walked past and was bear-hugged by one family member or friend after another. Boulais just watched and smiled.

"Just being around all these people and their love for the game is quite a sight," Boulais said. "You see these high schoolers walking by that just got drafted, how proud their families are.

"The biggest thing to me was when I received the phone call. I was leaving practice when they left me a voicemail, and they called me and that was the biggest wow factor. I was talking to the lady when I signed up, and she said it's a really slim chance that I'd ever get called. It's just shocking, something I never thought I'd hear back from again, and I end up talking to them six months later and potentially going through a procedure to save a kid's life."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.