ANAHEIM -- Before Ralf Reuland threw out the first pitch to the Angels' series opener against the A's on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, he received a word of advice from Hall of Famer Rod Carew.Carew, who in December received a heart and kidney transplant from Reuland's late son, former
ANAHEIM -- Before Ralf Reuland threw out the first pitch to the Angels' series opener against the A's on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, he received a word of advice from Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
Carew, who in December received a heart and kidney transplant from Reuland's late son, former Baltimore Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland, said, "Ralf, you don't have to go to the top of the mound. Go to the bottom and let it fly."
Less than one hour later, Ralf walked onto the field alongside Carew and former Angels shortstop David Eckstein during a special pregame ceremony to celebrate National Donate Life Month. As instructed, he took his spot at the bottom of the mound and fired a perfect strike to Angels reliever Brooks Pounders.
The interaction served as another example of the inextricable link that now binds the Carew and Reuland families. Their connection began in December, when Konrad died following a brain aneurysm. Just eight months earlier, he had decided to become an organ donor while renewing his driver's license, and that decision wound up saving the life of Carew, who had been on the waiting list for a heart and kidney transplant since suffering a massive heart attack in 2015.
"Obviously, losing him was difficult," said Mary Reuland, Konrad's mother. "But his choice to become an organ donor was his choice. He did ask me back in April, 'What should I do?' And I said, 'It's your choice.' And I truly believe somehow, in some divine way, that Konrad is up there smiling down. I think he chose the people that his organs went into, and he chose a wonderful family like the Carews to let him live on. I'm just really happy that they're doing well and that we've become a one big happy family."
Since recovering from his transplant surgery, Carew has teamed up with the Reulands to share their story and encourage others to become donors. Carew, who wore No. 29 during his 19-year career in the Majors with the Twins and Angels, has also inspired the American Heart Association's "Heart of 29" campaign to raise awareness of heart disease.
"If I wasn't able to get Konrad's heart and his kidney, I might not be here," Carew said. "So now we're going to live together. We're going to go on and do a lot of great things to help other people."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.