FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins surprised Hall of Famer Rod Carew on Saturday, when he arrived to serve in his role as a Spring Training instructor and was greeted by every player and staff member in the organization wearing red "Heart of 29" shirts to support Carew, who suffered a massive heart attack on Sept. 20.
Carew, 70, helped launch the Heart of 29 Campaign with the Twins and the American Heart Association to help raise awareness and funds to prevent heart attacks like the one he suffered while golfing near his home in Southern California. The Twins are set to host several events throughout the year as part of the campaign, and this was the first time they broke out the special shirts.
"To walk into the locker room and see all these guys wearing my shirts, it was kind of emotional, but I didn't want to get emotional because there's no crying in baseball," Carew said. "I knew they were going to get the guys to wear the shirts, but I didn't know when. So it was a big surprise to me. It's a great tribute."
So while Carew was happy to see the players support the cause, he was just as elated to be able to do what he loves -- helping mentor young players. Carew has been a fixture at Spring Training for the Twins over the years, and he was able to help out with a few drills and dispense advice to hitters. He said he felt surprisingly good after the workouts finished and his goal is to get in the cages and throw soft toss and batting practice in the coming week, despite wearing a battery-powered left ventricular assist device that helps pump blood throughout his body.
"I feel good," Carew said. "I take a lot of medication and get stuffed up and cough a lot, but they're going to try to get me a heart [transplant] in about four months. Until then, I'm going to live the bionic life and enjoy it."
Twins players certainly enjoyed having Carew around, as they were amazed by how he recovered from the heart attack that saw him spend 47 nights in five hospitals.
"It's awesome," Twins veteran Joe Mauer said. "Every time I see Rod Carew, I'm still in awe. So to see his situation where he's trying to raise awareness, it's pretty impressive. It's a good sight to see him today. It was nice to be able to support him, but to be able to see him helping the guys and their careers, it shows he's just a good person."
Carew said one of his first thoughts while recovering from the heart attack was how he could use his experience to benefit others, and that's where the partnership with the American Heart Association was born. It's similar to how he used the death of his daughter, Michelle, from leukemia in 1996 to help raise funds and spread awareness for those with the disease.
"You can't say enough good things about Rod," second baseman Brian Dozier said. "And for him to form this charity, it shows what kind of guy he is. He turned it into a positive to help others. That's just how he is."
Carew's message was heard by Twins players, as manager Paul Molitor made it a point to bring up Carew during the club's lengthy team meeting on Saturday before the first full day of workouts.
"I wanted to make sure our players, particularly new or younger players, understood his history," Molitor said. "Not just as a performer -- the numbers speak for themselves -- but give an idea of what character he has and the things that he's done and giving back, and even elevated that somewhat with his own personal situation."