Updated 05/23/12 – 9:21 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago police officer, who was stabbed in a fracas during protests of the NATO Summit over the weekend, was among the first batch to take in a free White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday.
“I was probably as front as you could be,” said Officer Tony Rouba.
Rouba, a die-hard White Sox fan, worked at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road on Sunday, when thousands of protesters rallied outside the summit at McCormick Place. He was stabbed in the leg during a fracas, a wound that required staples.
“Definitely proud of be a Chicago policeman and proud to work for the city of Chicago,” said Rouba.
Rouba said he didn’t feel right getting attention — that all officers deserved the spotlight.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports the White Sox have offered all 12,500 police officers in Chicago two free tickets to one of 10 home games this year, as thanks for their service and professionalism during the NATO protests.
The team also held a special tribute to the officers before Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, thanking police for a job well done by hosting them on the field during batting practice.
“It must not have been fun out there,” team owner Jerry Reinsdorf said as he shook hands with a group of officers.
Later, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger, Rouba, and six other police officers stood on the infield grass during the 7th inning stretch, as the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Kerner reports a 14-year police sergeant, who asked not to be identified, summed up the department’s reaction to the White Sox’s gesture.
“Very humbled. I think there’s a lot of police officers that are probably more deserving. I was working the radio that night, so I was out there talking to them,” he said. “I’m just proud to be a Chicago policeman, I’m proud to represent everyone that was out there, especially those guys that were on the front line.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Kerner reports
Officer Jeffrey Walker logged many miles on a bicycle patrol unit during the protests. He said keeping one’s cool was key for him and his fellow officers when groups of protesters taunted them and tried to goad them into confrontations.
“The Police Department trained us to react in that manner. They trained us that these types of things would be presented to us and we were able to rise to the occasion.”
Walker, a big Sox fan, said he’ll come away from the experience remembering how tired he was, but not too tired to cheer on his team.
Rouba, Walker and five other officers sat with McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel during the game, to take in the thanks from the White Sox and the cheers from the crowd.
“This tonight from Jerry Reinsdorf… it’s a great token and it’s typical what I’ve found Chicago to be,” McCarthy said.
Rouba said it would feel a little strange sitting with his boss during the game.
“I don’t know how that’s gonna go yet. It’s gonna be weird for me definitely,” said a laughing Rouba. “No telling what type of shenanigans I might be up to.”
McCarthy praised the work of the department for its handling of the protests.
“I don’t know if it exceeded my expectations, because I always set the bar very, very high. But I can tell you this, if I were grading this as a test, I’d give us probably a 99 so far,” McCarthy said.
The superintendent said the only reason he wouldn’t give the department a perfect score of 100 was “I don’t know if 100 is achievable at this point, but what a great job by everybody.”
McCarthy, who led from the front lines throughout most of the protests, said he never worried about becoming a target for the protesters, and he never thought it would be better to lead from behind the scenes.
“Not even for a second,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want it to sound arrogant, but the fact is, I think leadership has to do with being out there with the troops, making them understand that you wouldn’t ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.”
Meantime, Emanuel spent the 7th inning stretch in the press box at U.S. Cellular Field, talking to Sox broadcasters Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone about the city’s handling of the NATO Summit.
“I’m proud of the whole city, proud of our Police Department, Fire Department. They did a great job,” Emanuel said. “I’ve always had confidence in the leadership of our Police Department, the rank and file, and they showed the rest of the world what it means to have the best police force in the country.”
The mayor also said the summit worked in showcasing Chicago’s beauty, architecture, and the hospitality of Chicago residents.
“The city looked beautiful. A number of world leaders said this was the first time they’ve ever been here, they said they’re in awe of our city,” Emanuel said. “We performed like a world class city.”
He noted members of the Pakistani delegation decided to stay four extra days in Chicago after the summit, postponing a trip back to Washington, D.C. He also said several international reporters have done positive stories about their experience in Chicago.
“We all know it could be a world class city. Now the rest of the world knows it,” the mayor said. “There’s a civic pride out there, and a sense that we did it, and I’m very proud of that. I’m also proud of our men and women in uniform. They performed great.”
The mayor said that he tends to lose weight when he is under stress, and during the summit, he lost four pounds.
“We all called this the NATO Diet. That’s what Garry McCarthy, Al Wysinger, all were calling it the NATO Diet, we all dropped weight,” Emanuel said.