Carew in need of transplant after heart attack

Hall of Fame player still plans on attending his 50th Spring Training

Carew in need of transplant after heart attack

MINNEAPOLIS -- Hall of Famer Rod Carew suffered a heart attack near his home in Southern California on Sept. 20, and had a left ventricular assist device surgically implanted to help maintain the pumping of his heart as he awaits a possible heart transplant.

Carew, who is currently out of the hospital and is rehabbing, told his story to Sports Illustrated in hopes of inspiring those who need LVAD surgery or heart transplantation.

Carew, 70, also spoke to reporters via a conference call on Monday and said he still plans on being at Spring Training in March and at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July. Carew, who played with the Twins from 1967-78 and the Angels from 1979-85, remains in an advisory role for both organizations.

"I am thankful to the wonderful team of doctors and caring nurses that have given me a second chance at life," Carew said. "They do wonderful work. Thanks to them, I can eagerly anticipate being on the field for my 50th Spring Training this March. I also look forward to returning to Cooperstown this July to mark the 25th anniversary of my induction in the Hall of Fame."

Carew, an 18-time All-Star who won seven batting titles, said he suffered a massive heart attack while golfing alone in Corona, Calif. Carew told Sports Illustrated that he was dead before the team of doctors was able to bring him back to life. The LVAD was later inserted in early November via a six-hour open-heart surgery at Scripps La Jolla hospital near San Diego. But Carew was the fastest patient ever released from LVAD rehab at the hospital, per the report. He said he's been recovering at a friend's home near the hospital in San Diego and is doing better, but it's still a slow process and he doesn't expect to return to his home until late December.

"I'm doing pretty good," Carew said. "It's really tiresome. Everything you try to do, you have low energy."

Carew is now working to become healthy enough to receive a heart transplant, but in the meantime, he told the magazine that he plans to become an advocate for the American Heart Association. It's similar to his work as an advocate for Leukemia patients, as his daughter, Michelle, died from the disease at age 18 in 1996.

"That's the first thing I thought about," Carew said. "When my daughter passed away I tried to do things with the Leukemia Society and raise funds. So the first thing I thought about, maybe a day after was, 'How can I help the association?' If they want me to be a spokesperson, I'm glad to do it. I want to warn people and let them know how important is to be checked and to take care of their hearts."

Carew also wanted to thank his wife, Rhonda, and his son, Devon, for being around to help him throughout the process. He's worked with the two of them on creating a bucket list, and said two of the activities he'd still like to do include jumping out of an airplane despite his fear of flying and going into a shark tank despite his dislike of swimming.

"[Rhonda] has been unreal," Carew said. "It's almost like I was reborn and couldn't do anything. I couldn't go to the bathroom. I couldn't walk. She's gone through this whole thing with me. I'm lucky she's here and I'm lucky my son is here."

Carew played 19 seasons in the Majors with the Twins and Angels, hitting .328/.393/.429 with 3,053 hits and 353 stolen bases in 2,469 games. He won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1977, the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1967 and was also given the Roberto Clemente Award for his work off the field in 1977. Carew's No. 29 is retired by both the Twins and Angels and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

"The Pohlad family, Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory send love and prayers to Rod, Rhonda and the entire Carew family," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We stand with the Carews in offering gratitude to the medical professionals who have cared for Rodney throughout this ordeal. As Rod's journey unfolds, we are highly confident he will continue to demonstrate the same grace, focus and competitiveness exhibited throughout his Hall of Fame career. Get well soon No. 29, we'll see you at Spring Training."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.