Boone takes leave after receiving pacemaker

March 4th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Aaron Boone logged on for his daily Zoom chats on Wednesday morning, the Yankees’ coaches and members of the front office performed a double-take at the manager’s new digital backdrop -- a hospital bed.

Boone took an immediate medical leave of absence to receive a pacemaker, the club announced. Surgery was performed on Wednesday evening at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. The Yankees said in a statement that the procedure went as expected, that he will spend the night at the hospital to rest and recover and was in good spirits.

Boone could return to the dugout in two to three days, according to general manager Brian Cashman.

“All we care about is him,” Cashman said. “I really applaud him for being open with our fans through the media and sharing what he’s going through. He wanted to assure everyone that this has become a routine procedure and it’s just something that’s necessary; it’s time to get it out of the way and [he’ll] see you sooner rather than later.”

Boone, who underwent open-heart surgery to replace an aortic valve as an active player in 2009, filmed a video for his players and publicly addressed his situation in a statement released via the team. Boone said that he has been experiencing mild symptoms of lightheadedness, low energy and shortness of breath over the past six to eight weeks.

“As a result, I underwent a series of tests and examinations in New York prior to the beginning of Spring Training, including multiple visits with a team of heart specialists,” Boone said. “While the heart checkup came back normal, there were indications of a low heart rate which, after further consultations with doctors in Tampa, necessitates a pacemaker.

“My faith is strong, and my spirits are high. I’m in a great frame of mind because I know I’m in good hands with the doctors and medical staff here at St. Joseph’s Hospital. They are confident that today’s surgery will allow me to resume all of my usual professional and personal activities and afford me a positive long-term health prognosis without having to change anything about my way of life.”

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza will assume the role of acting manager in Boone’s absence, beginning with Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays.

“The thoughts of the entire organization are with Aaron and his family as he undergoes this procedure and takes the time he needs to properly heal,” said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. “Aaron leads our players, coaches and staff with a rare combination of work ethic, intelligence and a genuine concern for others. Our only priority at this time is Aaron’s health and well-being, and we will support him in every way throughout his recovery.”

Dr. Robert Knotts, a cardiac electrophysiologist at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, said that Boone should have no difficulty in returning to his normal duties this season, though he may be unable to toss batting practice for a brief period. Dr. Knotts has not treated Boone.

“In general, going back to normal activities within two to three days is totally reasonable,” Knotts said. “We generally advise patients to have no extreme arm motion or heavy lifting for about four weeks. Especially the side where the pacemaker is installed, you want to make sure that the leads are secured in position before you start strenuous activity.”

Mendoza said that he spoke to Boone before the surgery, and that the manager seemed to be in good spirits.

“That says a lot about the type of person that Aaron Boone is,” Mendoza said. “As the conversation progressed, listening to him and seeing his face, he was smiling. He was joking around with the coaches before we started the meeting. It was great. It goes back to the type of person and type of leader he is. We’ll continue to pray for him and his family.”

Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said that Boone’s recorded message helped put the players’ minds at ease.

“Anytime you hear anything about the heart, it’s very concerning,” Gardner said. “Our first thoughts go to him and his well-being, but his first thoughts go to his players and our well-being. It was good to see that he’s at ease and feels confident about what he has going on today. We’ll look forward to getting him back here pretty soon, but we’ll miss him while he’s gone.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora added his thoughts and prayers, saying: “He’s one of my best friends in baseball. We were teammates at ESPN. I know he’s going to be fine and we’re going to get back to competing again. Looking forward to seeing him in New York.”

Cashman said that Boone opted to make his health situation public, believing that there could be benefit in encouraging others to pursue medical treatment in similar situations.

“I also want to take this opportunity to remind all those dealing with heart issues to remain vigilant in your care and to reach out to your doctor should you have any symptoms of discomfort or trouble,” Boone said. “Any issue involving the heart has the potential to be serious. Staying on top of your health is always the first and most important thing you can do for yourself and your family.”