© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

10/04/09 6:23 PM EST

Boone given third-base bag from finale

Astros player recognized for return from open-heart surgery

NEW YORK -- When Astros third baseman Aaron Boone arrived at his locker following the Astros' 4-0 loss to the Mets in the season finale Sunday, teammate Geoff Blum was standing there to present him with a token of appreciation.

Boone, who returned to play in September after undergoing open-heart surgery in March, was given the third-base bag from Citi Field. The idea of getting a base was certainly touching, but how it was presented meant even more to Boone.

"That was pretty special," he said. "It's a cool thing to take away."

Darin Erstad asked Mets third baseman David Wright to fetch the base and give it to Erstad, who handed it off to Blum moments after the final out.

"The man's been through a lot," Erstad said.

Boone, 36, is believed to be the only player to return to the Major Leagues following open-heart surgery. He underwent surgery March 26 at Stanford University Medical Center to repair a valve in his heart that threatened the aorta.

He made his second start of the season Sunday, but went 0-for-3 and remained hitless (0-for-13) for the season. That hardly matters, though, considering the long road to recovery Boone faced.

"It was very rewarding to be able to join these guys and be a part of it," Boone said. "I just feel real blessed and fortunate to have gotten to this point."

Blum and Boone, both 36-year-old products of Southern California, have known each other for about half their lives.

"I've been playing against Aaron since we were 17 or 18, so you know, watching the evolution of him and watching our careers and knowing we're the same age and cut our teeth during the same time, we're the last of a dying breed," Blum said. "I think he should be recognized for what he's doing and he's always been an appreciative and supportive teammate.

"Coming back from heart surgery is a pretty amazing thing, too. He's been through the gamut of emotions, and the last third base [of the season] was appropriate to give to him to recognize what he did to get there."

Boone hasn't given thought about returning next year.

"I'm looking forward to getting home right now, and we'll go from there," Boone said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.