MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Carew has new lease on life after transplants

Hall of Famer speaks out about heart attack prevention

Carew has new lease on life after transplants

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- What a difference a year makes.

During last year's Baseball Hall of Fame weekend, the legendary Rod Carew was dealing with health scares, from needing heart and kidney transplants to an aching back.

On Saturday at the Clark Sports Center, Carew, 71, sat on the podium as the ambassador for the American Heart Association, and he said he feels like a new man, thanks to the transplants he received last December.

"I feel great. My heart is roaring. I'm just happy to be here," Carew said. "It was a long journey, but a good journey. One of the things I relied on a lot was my friend [God] upstairs. I begged him. I cried to him. But I knew that he was with me. I thank him every day that I get up to let him know how much I appreciate him and that he gave me a second chance at life."

Carew's mission on Saturday was to educate people on how to prevent heart attacks, after he suffered one while golfing alone in Corona, Calif., in 2015, After he flatlined three times from to the golf course to the hospital, Carew had to wear an LVAD -- left ventricular assist device -- in order to keep his heart pumping.

Carew on life-saving transplant

Carew was able to get his heart and kidney transplants in January of this year from former NFL player Konrad Reuland, who died of a brain aneurysm at age 29. It was the first time a heart had been shared by professional athletes. Carew didn't know Reuland was the donor until after the procedures were done. Carew and wife, Rhonda, then formed "Heart of 29" in conjunction with the American Heart Association.

Carew on well wishers

As it turned out, Carew met Reuland at a basketball game years ago. Reuland, who was 11 at the time, went to the same middle school with Carew's son and daughter.

"It's almost like a miracle," Carew said. "I think God didn't want me yet. Now I have a young man's heart in me. … This was a complete surprise to my wife and I that he was my donor. Konrad Reuland is here with me today. I hope to be in the football Hall of Fame with him one day."

Since getting the transplants, Carew has been able to fly to Minnesota and travel to the All-Star Game in Miami. He recently had a checkup and was informed that he was doing well.

Carew on heart attack

'It just feels good to know that I can travel and can do all the things that I want to do now. It's been an unbelievable journey," Carew said. "I really hope that anyone that goes through something like this has a caretaker like my wife. My wife was my girlfriend, my lover, everything to me during that period."

MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- begins with MLB Tonight Sunday at noon ET, followed by the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Prior to Sunday's live coverage, you can watch a live stream of the Hall of Fame Awards ceremony on MLB.com on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET. It will feature Rachel Robinson (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award), Claire Smith (J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers) and the posthumous honoring of Bill King (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters). The presentation will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film "A League of Their Own." MLB Network will also televise the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday in advance of the induction.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.