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Carew embraces second chance after heart attack

Hall of Famer delivers message of prevention

Hall of Famer Rod Carew closed an emotional conference call on Monday afternoon with a message that was both personal and universal.

"Get tested," he said.

Carew stressed how lucky he is to have survived what he was told was a "widow-maker" of a heart attack on Sept. 20. In his recovery with his family in San Diego county, he is taking it upon himself to spread the word about thorough heart checkups.

Carew rehabbing from heart attack

In his most recent doctor's visit, he'd been informed that his blood pressure and cholesterol were high. But he had no idea a near-fatal heart attack was on the horizon.

"I looked at myself as healthy," he said. "You never know. I'd like to warn people how important it is to get your heart checked."

As he counts his blessings in the company of his family, gradually regaining strength with an implanted left ventricular assist device, Carew reflects on his life and what he plans to do now that he has been given this reprieve by "my friend upstairs."

Thanksgiving clearly has taken on deep personal meaning for the seven-time American League batting champion who graced the Twins for 12 seasons and the Angels for seven. Panama's gift to the national pastime turned 70 on Oct. 1.

"I've known for a long time we aren't going to live forever," Carew said. "Maybe I have some things to do, to complete."

These have been trying times, for certain. Recalling the 1996 death of daughter Michelle, at 18, from leukemia, Carew confided, "I sit down and cry ... get up in the morning and cry. It's been tough. I go back and think about her and what she went through.

"I've been fortunate. My son's been with me since Day 1. My wife's been with me since Day 1. ... People are unbelievable."

On a lighter note, Carew said he is pondering a few future adventures along with his plans of joining the Twins, as has been his custom, for Spring Training on March 1. He also is looking forward to visiting Cooperstown, N.Y., in July for the 25th anniversary of his induction into the Hall of Fame.

"My wife and I and our son are making a bucket list," Carew said. "There are some things I'd like to do before I get off this earth. One is jumping out of an airplane ... and I hate to fly. The other is going down in a shark tank and seeing what that's like."

The Carews already had been planning a trip to Italy, and Rod said he would like to plan a round of golf at legendary St. Andrews in Scotland.

He was hitting golf balls in Corona, Calif., when he was struck by the heart attack. He is effusive in praise of the professionals who promptly did everything required to keep him alive.

"I had no time to think," he said. "Next thing I knew I was down on the floor with a guy with two paddles on me."

His mission now is to build strength as he becomes a candidate for a heart transplant -- and spread his message.

The 1967 American League Rookie of the Year with the Twins and 1977 Most Valuable Player Award winner with a career-best .388 batting average, Carew was an All-Star for 18 consecutive seasons.

A master of the game's finer points -- bunting, stealing, executing the hit-and-run -- he has taken quite an interest in the rise of the Royals, both as 2015 World Series champions and 2014 AL champs pushing the champion Giants to seven games.

The Royals play the game in his fashion, with intelligent aggression.

"They were doing things out there I remember doing," Carew said. "It was all about making little moves to get yourself in position to win games. The last two years, watching that ballclub, I've been fascinated by that."

The game is still in his blood, but he has a bigger goal now. Aligning himself with the American Heart Association, Rodney Cline Carew is spreading the message of proactive prevention.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins