Today marks 32 days since I had my ill-timed heart attack in Sherwood, Arkansas (is there really a good time to have a heart attack?). Furthermore, it has been thirty days from my hospital release date. In many ways it seems like a long time since then and in the same vein it feels like only yesterday. Sometimes, depending on how a fall asleep, I wake up and feel like the IV’s are still in the crook of each arm but then I move and the sensation dissipates. Starting with the moment I was lifted up into that ambulance, then continuing through coming back home and meeting with the local doctors (cardiologists, thyroid doctors, etc.), I have intently listened to what they have told me I need to do. In the context of their medical recommendations and strategies to put me on the path to returning to normalcy, I have also been doing some figurative cosmic math.
With my non-functioning thyroid and mending heart put on rehabilitation notice, I set a small goal for myself. I wanted to get back onto the softball field in time for the USA/ASA State Championship so I could help my team defend our state title victory from last year. Granted this was a short, tight window but I was determined and that was my goal.
Motivation: Isn’t that what leads to success and achievement? It’s only been a quick month but I’ve never been so diligent and cognizant of taking meds and doing the rehab exercises (plus a little extra: i.e. walking the stairs multiple times per day at work). Obviously these exercises were not of Herculean effort but those activities were helping build me up to get me on the bunny slopes of skiing towards my goal.
To those on the outside who don’t play softball or have some other notable obsession, all of this probably seems un-necessary and meaningless. For me, it was not.
This comeback was for every kid who fell off their roller skates and never went back. It was for every person who got stopped from doing what they loved to do. It was for Greg Fusco. It was for Aaron Dunn. It was for me.
Some will chide me, stating this activity was too soon or too stupid or too reckless. Maybe they were right…maybe they were not. Every day is a new test. If you are afraid to try because you might fail, then you have already failed. July 5th 2019 was a shot that knocked me down but I have been determined not to stay down. From the casual observer’s perspective I may not look like much but at my core I am passionate and possess a stubborn strength. I’m not going to lie, some days are better than others from a health standpoint. Off and on since the incident I’ve had days where I could barely push myself off the couch or out of the bed. On these days, I take it slow and focus on the next step. The short-term race may not be won but the cumulative net result will be another inch toward my goals.
As some of you may have heard or seen, I have returned to playing softball. I was able to achieve my goal of returning to my team (Hyperactive) in time for the USA/ASA State Championship. On the first day of the tournament, my coach slipped me into our first game that was a blow out on the scoreboard for a single at-bat. The first pitch was a ball outside and the second pitch I slapped weakly to the second baseman who was able to field it and force out the runner at second for the third out. Besides that lone at-bat, my job was to help coach the bases on Saturday. The only other departure from first base coach for me was when I entered into the third game late as a defensive replacement at second base – again for two pitches of action. Besides coaching our base runners during the games, I was just another ugly cheerleader rooting on his team to the tune of three victories!
Rolling into the second day of the tournament (Sunday), we took care of business in the first game of the day. I think the final score was like 23-13. Initially it was 20-0 before our coach sent in our substitutions and then the game became more interesting. I was one of those substitutions at the catcher position. In this contest I batted twice with a pair of ground outs. This win advanced us to the championship game. The team we played in our first game of the day won their way back through the loser’s bracket to face us again. They would need to defeat us twice to claim the state title…and unfortunately they did. Hats off to them for the accomplishment, they earned it. Over the course of the next two contests, I played catcher – allowed zero stolen bases (you can steal in USA/ASA) and also some first base.
With my bat not producing, I was trying to focus on playing solid defense behind the plate and first base. I think I acquitted myself decently well by keeping our pitcher Josh in rhythm while I was behind the plate. At first base, I was able to make a few plays and even contributed to a 1-3-5 double play! (#HeGotHosed) I can say I was satisfied with my glovework in those last two games but ultimately I believe my performance at the plate was pretty darn awful and probably cost my team a chance to repeat as State Champs.
Over the next 24 hours I thought about many things as I often do. One of those things was about long time softball friend Trent who is dealing with blood clots that will more than likely force him to stop playing softball altogether. Since my incident I am on a prescription blood thinner to minimize issues I could have with the stents in my heart. If I would get a cut, it could be a serious situation as my blood will take a lot longer to clot. Gross food for thought.
This morning I sent Tim, my tournament coach, a message through Facebook telling him I am effectively shutting myself down until next spring for tournaments. I will still play my softball during the week in league where things are more casual and I can take a more leisurely approach especially when it comes to running. My rational was to be fair to my guys on Hyperactive who bust their asses every tourney and mesh well as any good team should. Tournament softball tends to be quite a bit more serious and if you cannot play at a high level, you are doing your teammates a disservice. Based on the way I hit over the weekend and my honest self-assessment that I feel like my strength is about 70 percent of where I was before, it just makes sense for me to step away and continue to work on getting stronger. In that same message to Tim who runs Hyperactive, I stated in no uncertain terms that I was not quitting on the team nor was I retiring. Going back to when I started playing tournament ball 15 years ago, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have played with some ridiculously talents individuals that are fantastic ball players. If I could cross the time divide to those past teams, I would pit this Hyperactive team against any of those teams and feel confident that these guys would compete down to the last out and come out ahead more times than not. Fun bunch of dudes who play for each other with character and heart. Love you guys.
It’s been a weird 2019 so far (LGB!) and there’s still more to come. To everyone who has been in my corner and been checking in on me I truly appreciate it. I’ll do what needs to be done and hopefully never ever have to repeat the experience of that fateful July 5th. Everyone have a great week and we will talk to you soon.