By Dan Cook, WCCO NewsRadio 830, @dancookwcco

“The only thing I was thinking about was ‘don’t bounce the darn thing.'”

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After suffering a near-fatal heart attack on September 20, 2015, the fact that Rod Carew’s chief concern on Monday’s Twins home opener was bouncing the ceremonial first pitch was a near miracle.

It’s been a long road towards recovery for Carew as he awaits a heart transplant. One that’s been marked by signposts pointing to what else? Baseball.

“I set a few goals after I was released from the hospital. Going to Spring Training was a big goal. Because I think going to Spring Training and being there every day and being around the guys really helped me out a lot,” Carew said.

To say he was appreciative of the standing ovation from Twins fans as he walked towards the mound at Target Field would be an understatement.

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“You know I really had to hold myself back from crying,” Carew said, “because it’s just a tremendous moment, a tremendous honor.”

Carew was joined on the field for moral support by fellow Twins legend, Tony Oliva. Joe Mauer was back behind the plate to receive Carew’s ceremonial pitch, which was – of course – a strike right down Broadway.

So what’s Carew’s message to fans as he and the Twins launch their “Heart of 29” campaign, in conjunction with the American Heart Association?

“I hope all you guys get your hearts checked,” Carew said to the media, “because if you haven’t, please do. I’ve been fortunate to be given a second chance. I think my friend upstairs gave me a second chance to help people and let them be aware that we lose so many lives because of our hearts during the course of a year that we need to get them checked.”

 

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