By Brady Henderson
All the support that Mariners manager Eric Wedge received in the form of text messages, phone calls, emails and cards made his month-long absence from the team a little easier.
So did the realization that while the stroke he suffered last month was frightening, he was fortunate that it wasn’t much worse.
“It’s been a tough month, but it’s also been a great month,” Wedge told “Brock and Danny” on Thursday, exactly a month after a mild stroke in his brainstem served as a wake-up call to take better care of his health. “I feel better than I have in probably 10 years, 15 years. That’s how good I feel right now.”
“I’m gonna come out of this a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better professional,” said manager Eric Wedge, who’s returning to the Mariners a month after suffering a mild stroke. (AP)
Wedge, 45, will be back in the Mariners’ dugout on Friday when they open a three-game series against the Angels at Safeco Field. He’s returning with a different mindset, though, more aware of the importance of managing the stress that comes with leading a team through the grind of an MLB season. That means making some concessions.
“I’m not going to change who I am. My convictions don’t change, how I feel about the game, the code that I live my life by is not going to change. But having said all that, there are certain points in time of the day where you can pull back a little bit,” he said “… It doesn’t mean I’m not going to be yelling at umpires or getting on players or as passionate as I was before, because I fully plan on doing that, but I don’t need to keep ramping it up to the point where it gets in the way of my health.”
Wedge is also more conscious about his diet, exercise and sleep. He’s being treated for what he said is a severe case of sleep apnea, an often undiagnosed disorder that he wasn’t aware he was suffering from.
It was a month ago Thursday when a scary pregame episode landed Wedge in the hospital. He was watching his team take batting practice when he became so overtaken by dizziness that he couldn’t take a step or stand on his own.
“I’m right behind the cage so I’m holding onto the cage, otherwise I think I would have fell down,” he said. “I’m looking to the outfield, looking to the hitter, I’m watching the flight of the ball and everything’s just spinning and jumping around on me.”
Trainers assisted Wedge off the field while he feigned a knee injury, not wanting his players to notice what looked like a serious issue.
“By the time I got to the dugout I was pretty much dead weight, and then the next thing you know there’s five guys getting me down the stairs and then up the ramp and I’m on the gurney,” he said. “I was just upset, I was frustrated, I was mad, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t want to go to the hospital but it was evident real quick that I had to go.”
If he wasn’t sure then of the gravity of the incident, he was after spending two days at Harborview Medical Center.
“I think what hit (wife) Kate and I more than anything was when we were about to check out and then one by one these leaders of departments came in and pretty much scared the hell out of us about what had happened, what could have happened and how lucky we are,” he said.
Save for a few pregame visits to the clubhouse, Wedge spent the next three and a half weeks following along from home while bench coach Robby Thompson managed the team. Wedge gained what he said is a valuable perspective while watching the games on television for the first time in his career. Not that doing so was easy.
“There wasn’t one game where I sat there and watched the whole nine innings. I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I kept the TV on, [but] I might have to go in the car and listen to Rick (Rizzs) or whatever for a while and come back because that was just too much for me. It would just drive me crazy. But it was good, it was good to get that different perspective.”
Wedge returns to a Mariners team that went 13-15 in his absence, on Wednesday finishing a 5-4 road trip against the Rays, Rangers and Athletics. What Wedge saw over the last month, he said, has validated his belief that the Mariners are on the cusp of breaking out. Sitting at 59-67 entering Friday, they have five weeks remaining to finish above .500 for the first time in Wedge’s three season in Seattle.
“I know for a fact my best days and our best days are ahead of us,” he said, “so that’s pretty exciting.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson