Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves
No player has stolen more bases than Ronald Acuña Jr. (196) since making his debut in the Majors in 2018 Via @Braves on X/Twitter

SEATTLE - It's always frustrating to see a professional athlete suffer a long-term injury, and it's even worse when that player has had a history with them. That's the case for Ronald Acuña Jr., who suffered a complete tear of his left ACL in the first inning of the Atlanta Braves' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26.

The injury took place when Acuña tried to steal third base. As he tried to get back, his left knee appeared to get stuck and the Venezuelan ended up rolling on the ground. He was eventually able to walk off the field escorted by the Braves' medical staff.

Even though it's hard for any elite athlete to deal with such a big injury, Acuña remains positive. The Venezuelan said through interpreter Franco García that, this time around, it has been easier to process because he knows what to expect, but the goal is "to come back as a better player and a better person."

He had to go through the same pains and struggles in 2021, when he injured his right knee's ACL and spent more than nine months on the sidelines. "I'll be ready when the team says I'm ready," he said. "I'm just hopeful that the surgery goes well, the rehab goes well, and everything goes according to plan."

The four-time All-Star will undergo surgery in June 4 and Dr. Neil ElAttrache will perform the operation in Los Angeles. Acuña labelled everything that has happened to him as a "blessing in disguise."

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"Sometimes you got to lose yourself to find yourself, and I think that's how I'm trying to approach this thing," he said. "I just want to take everything in stride and who knows, maybe I can come back and win another MVP."

When athletes suffer a long-term injury, the first question that is asked around them is their timeline to return to action. But Acuña said that the biggest lesson he learned from his first ACL rehab was patience.

Despite the good vibes, there's still a bittersweet taste. "It feels like I'm the one letting everyone down," the Venezuelan said. "But there's nothing I can do. Just continue to work hard to heal."

Acuña also mentioned that the support he has received since the news broke has been overwhelming and "that's what finds me crying at home by myself, because I feel like I'm the one abandoning the team."

With a tough road ahead for a full recovery, the reigning NL MVP will remain in Los Angeles for a month or a month and a half after his surgery before joining the Braves.

When Acuña missed half of the 2021 season due to his other ACL injury, Atlanta managed to have a successful season without one of its best players, winning its first World Series title since 1995.

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