This Astro values life more after near-death scare

May 3rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There’s nothing like a brush with death to change your outlook on life and make you appreciate what you have and those around you. That’s the new reality for Astros hitting coach Alex Cintrón, who has a deeper purpose these days after a health scare landed him in the hospital this spring and had him only minutes away from a possible heart attack or stroke.

Cintrón missed the first week of spring camp in February after recovering at home from heart ablation surgery, in which heat or cold energy is used to create tiny scars in the heart to block irregular electrical signals and restore a normal heartbeat. It’s performed by inserting a catheter through the veins or arteries.

Cintrón, 44, started experiencing heart arrythmia while at his home in Houston on Dec. 5 and drove himself to the emergency room because he thought he was having a heart attack.

“Thanks to God, it was like only five minutes away,” he said. “The doctor gave me morphine because my blood pressure was [high]. They say five, 10 minutes later that I would have had a heart attack or stroke. I was really lucky and blessed by God that didn’t happen. After that, I started taking care of myself a little bit better -- eating better, drinking less. Kind of those things can be like dangerous for your heart, for your health.”

Cintrón was scheduled to undergo surgery Feb. 12, but a bout with COVID-19 pushed it back a week. He eventually made it to Florida for Spring Training after losing 16 pounds through the whole process. It was only last week doctors cleared him from the medications he was taking for his heart.

“It changes your life,” Cintrón said. “It changes the way you think about it. I live day by day. You never know what’s going to happen. … It changed my life a little bit, how I’m thinking, how to live my life, how to handle day-by-day everything. It’s kind of like a wake-up call.”

Cintrón, who has one daughter, played nine seasons in the big leagues with the D-backs (2001-05), White Sox (2006-07), Orioles (2008) and Nationals (2009). He joined the Astros in 2017 as the team’s Spanish translator, advance scout and assistant coach, and was the team’s first-base coach in ’18. He’s been the hitting coach since the 2019 season.

In the offseason, Cintrón managed in the Puerto Rican Winter League with Cangrejeros de Santurce and came home to Houston for the weekend to attend a gala dinner in early December when he suffered his health scare. Cintrón said he was lucky to be in Houston and so close to world-class healthcare.

“If that would have happened in Puerto Rico, I don’t know if I would be here because over there it’s difficult to get treatment quick in the emergency room and get attention, so I was lucky to be in Houston and have that attention,” he said. “I was five minutes away. I drove myself. I don’t know how, but I did.”