KANSAS CITY -- Steve Palermo is no stranger to baseball's big events, despite the fact that 21 years have passed since he was last on the field as a Major League umpire.
Palermo, today a Major League supervisor of umpires, is accustomed to going largely unnoticed when he's at the ballpark. That changed for brief moment on Tuesday, when he was recognized on the field in the minutes leading up to the 83rd All-Star Game.
Palermo, a native of nearby Overland Park, Kan., was saluted by the Kansas City crowd for a host of reasons: his bravery, his perseverance and his continuing contributions to the game. He's also overcome incredibly difficult challenges when it may have been easier just to give up. That alone deserves a round of applause.
Twenty-one years ago, while dining with friends after working a Texas Rangers game, Palermo was shot in the back after attempting to assist two waitresses who were being mugged in the parking lot. He suffered a bullet wound to his spinal cord, resulting in complete paralysis of his lower extremities. After emergency surgery, doctors told him he would never walk again.
Today, Palermo walks with a cane and a shortened brace. He's also dedicated his life to making sure something good came out of a tragic event that changed his life forever.
In the early 1990s, he founded the Steve Palermo Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries to fund research to discover a cure for paralysis. It also provides hope and support to those with spinal cord injuries and their families.
Seeking to continue the work the Foundation created, Palermo and his wife, Debbie, formed a partnership with Kansas University Endowment Association. The Steve Palermo Nerve Regeneration Laboratory now resides in the Life Sciences Innovation Center at KU Medical Center.
On Tuesday, Palermo emerged from the tunnel near the third-base dugout with the All-Star umpiring crew and walked to home plate for the exchange of lineup cards. The public address announcer read a long list of accolades for the 62-year-old former umpire while a sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave him a rousing standing ovation.
After a brief meeting with the umpires and All-Star managers, Palermo walked off the field, unassuming and unassisted. It was a moment that would have seemed impossible 21 years ago, for many reasons.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.