Leader of 9/11 relief efforts tosses first pitch

Tribe pays tribute with color guard presentation, moment of silence

Leader of 9/11 relief efforts tosses first pitch

CLEVELAND -- Thirteen years have passed since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Time might help heal wounds, but it certainly does not erase memories.

Before the Indians took on the Twins on Thursday afternoon, Cleveland paid tribute to those lost more than a decade ago and honored those who served the country on that day and in the years since. As part of the pregame ceremony, Major George Polarek, the director of the Salvation Army's Sept. 11 World Trade Center relief efforts, threw out the first pitch.

"Nine-eleven is an opportunity to be reminded of the character of the American citizen," Polarek said, "the common person who wants to volunteer or contribute. They are the means by which the needs after disasters are all fulfilled, because of the American people and how they consider these things to be important."

Polarek -- a guest of the local Salvation Army for Thursday's game -- was on Long Island in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. The next day, he led Salvation Army's efforts at Ground Zero, managing broad-based logistics and assisting survivors and family members of those affected by the attacks.

For his leadership, Polarek earned recognition from then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Polarek has also served in leadership roles during relief efforts after Hurrican Katrina, as well as in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Samoa, New Zealand, Haiti and Japan.

Prior to Thursday's game, the Indians also held a moment of silence and had a Marine Corps Color Guard present the colors before the national anthem.

Quote to note
"We're playing a lot of younger guys. I think we're getting a pretty big kick out of that. I think it's been good for everybody. It's created some enthusiasm, but I think some of our guys are learning that it's a grind, man. Sometimes the game beats you up a little bit."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona

Smoke signals
• Indians rookie Jesus Aguilar has hit just .130 (3-for-23) with no extra-base hits through 12 games with the Major League club this season. In 118 games with Triple-A Columbus this year, the 24-year-old first baseman posted a .304/.395/.511 slash line with 19 homers, 31 doubles and 77 RBIs.

"His career wouldn't be defined by his 30 or 40 at-bats here. That's the truth," Francona said. "When you're in Double-A or Triple-A or the Major Leagues, and you're playing every day and you get comfortable, you can see what a guy can do. When a guy's used sparingly, especially when he's not used to being used like that, sometimes you don't swing the bat like you can."

• Indians first baseman Carlos Santana entered play Thursday with a Major League-leading 101 walks this season. Cleveland has not had a player lead all of baseball in walks since 1919, when Jack Graney achieved the feat with 105 free passes. The last Indians batter to lead the American League in walks was Jim Thome (122) in 2002.

• Entering Thursday's action, the Indians' rotation had a Major League-leading 2.22 ERA (43 earned runs in 174 1/3 innings) in the 28 games dating back to Aug. 9. As a whole, the Cleveland pitching staff had a 3.02 ERA in the second half, ranking the team fifth overall in the Majors in that category.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.