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SportsOrioles

A ballplayer who won't give up

BaseballSpring TrainingBaltimore Orioles

When former Orioles manager Dave Trembley made the relatively short trip from St. Petersburg, Fla. to the club's minor league complex in Sarasota in late September 2009, his team was in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, prompting speculation that he was about to lose his job.

Trembley, who took every lost hard, was a beaten man, but his own situation became an afterthought when he spotted Orioles' outfield prospect Kieron Pope, a player he once coached, needing assistance from a trainer just to walk on a treadmill set to its lowest speed.

Trembley, remembering Pope as a "physical specimen" who hit balls further than anybody, nearly broke out into tears.

Months later, I met Pope at the same complex and sat down with him to discuss his long and grueling recovery from a broken right femur, an injury that he sustained while trying to leg out a base hit during spring training. The soft-spoken 24-year-old from Georgia needed three different surgeries in order to just walk without a limp.

At the time, Pope still hadn't been cleared to play yet, but just being in uniform again had him smiling broadly.

He eventually was cleared and batted .250 with six homers and 44 RBIs in 75 games for Single-A Delmarva. At the end of the season, the organization awarded him with the Moe Drabowsky Comeback Player of the Year award.

In another losing season for the Orioles that included one of the worst starts in baseball history, two managerial changes followed by an uplifting finish, the image of Pope, smiling and in uniform again, is the one I choose to remember.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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