Eric Wedge looks a little different than the last time he was in a Mariners uniform. He’s clean shaven. He’s lost some weight. Most of all, he looks healthy. After suffering a mild stroke on July 22, Wedge returns to the Mariners dugout. He’s happy and excited. Wedge missed a total of 29 games and the team went 12-17 in his absence.
Full transcript after the jump
“I’ve been looking forward to it. I had this as a goal to try to get back by today. I feel great. I feel better than I have in 10 or 15 years. I think it was the perfect storm and a lot of things happened that culminated with that episode I had a month ago. So you make some changes to make sure you don’t get back there. I’ve always lived my life in a certain way. I care about things that I think you should care about, people you should care about, and I’m not going to change that. But how I go about my business and handle things, more so than not internally, I think that’s something I can do a better job with. It’s great to be back here. I missed the players, all the coaches and the people in the organization that I see on a daily basis. So I’m happy to be back.”
Are there any limitations going forward?
“I’ll be here for the duration. I’m the manager, so I’m going to be back in charge. But I’ll lean heavily on Robby and Carl and the rest of the coaching staff. I thought Robby did an outstanding job, getting thrown right into the fire. There’s no heads up for that. And all the other coaches stepping up, too. These guys have been playing and fighting hard. They’ve had some tough losses, but they fight. They keep working to get better. Inconsistent, yeah, but they’re going to keep getting better and getting more consistent. From my standpoint, I just have to monitor myself. I’m in uncharted waters here. A lot of people, whether it be coaches or players or you guys or fans, we’ll take it as it comes. But I wouldn’t be back here if I didn’t feel I was ready to be back here. The fact of the matter is, they wouldn’t let me back here if they didn’t think I was ready.”
Were you scared?
“I really wasn’t scared. I was just confused. Something overtook my body that I didn’t have any control over. It was the first time I felt I’d lost control. First my head, then my legs and then the eyesight comes into play. I called Rick Griffin over first and started talking to him and knew something was wrong. Then it was just about trying to get off the field. I didn’t want to make a big to-do about it. Rob Nodine came over and they got me over to the field, at least to the steps. By the time I got to the steps, I was pretty much dead weight. They got me on the gurney and to the hospital. Every step we took further I got a little more upset because I didn’t want that to happen. Then when I got to the hospital, I knew it was a pretty serious thing. We didn’t really find out until the next day exactly what it was. By mid-afternoon, we knew the diagnosis.”
“He said mild stroke, but still that word gets your attention. I knew when he sat down there was something wrong. But I was feeling better daily. I walked out of the hospital three days later and every day since then I’ve been better. I’ve been listening to the doctors. I’ve had a ton of doctors over at Harborview and UW that have been fantastic and I’ve had great care. From Dr. Herring and Dr. Story and so many people here in the organization. When you talk about the progress and being checked out, I’m just a product of that. They were going to make sure they checked everything that was going on with my body and ruled everything else out. Then it’s just a matter of following the program and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Did you ever think you wouldn’t be back?
“No, I never felt there’d be a point in time … I didn’t feel like I was going to be out this long. They talk about anywhere from 3-6 months in regard to recovery, but I didn’t consider that. And it’s not like I’ve been going crazy to try to get back. I’ve been following the rules and doing what I need to be doing. They made it very clear, they marched them in there one by one before I left the hospital to let me know just how serious this was and how serious I needed to take this. It’s a shot across the bow, it’s a mulligan, it’s a heads up. And I’m taking it as such. Listen, I live my life with a great deal of passion. And I believe in that. I love my family to no end, they’re the No. 1 priority to me, my wife and two kids. And I love this game and respect this game so much. I feel so strong about this organization. I’ve put my heart and soul into this thing, as have so many others, and at some point in time you, have to take a step back and take care of yourself. And that’s what I’m going to do a better job of.”
What are you going to change?
I think from a baseball standpoint a lot of it is just mindset. From a life standpoint I think a lot of that is mindset as well. I take a lot of pride in being a good husband and good father. Sometimes in order to do that you’ve got to grit your teeth, bury it deep, put a smile on your face and walk through the door and be really good. I’m hoping from now on I can handle it a little bit better internally and not have to bury it as deep and still be that same guy and still be genuine with it.
Kate has been a great partner with this. She has spearheaded everything and she’s been on the frontlines through all of this and working with all of the doctors and everything else and I wouldn’t be where I am right if it wasn’t for her. The kids have been a little bit curious why they can’t come to the park and play in the playroom so they’ll be happy I’m back too. But I think just knowing when to take a step back personally and making sure that when I’m moving forward with everything, being a perfectionist by nature and wanting everything to happen the way I envision it to happen, that you’ve got to handle that accordingly.
Was your family supportive of your decision?
There was a great deal of concern from family members and friends and family really all over the country, the world. The outreach has been humbling. I didn’t know I knew that many people. It’s been unbelievable. Obviously here in Seattle and the great Northwest here, my family and friends throughout the world I’ve met over the years. So many ways of communication now, it’s fantastic. I haven’t had a chance to get back to most of them and I thank them for that, believe me. But the only thing I assured them I wasn’t going to come back until I felt I was ready to go. And not just to be back to be back, but be back ready to go.
That’s why I said I feel better now than I have in years. Still out of the loop a little bit cause unless you’re here and privy to it 24/7 there’s a little bit of a learning curve involved and Robby and Carl and the rest of the coaches will help me with that and Jack will help me with that. But Kate and I have had the conversations we need to have in regard to my health as well as different doctors and myself and the organization. For me this is a new beginning. I’m 45 years olds. I’ve been managing for 10 years. That’s somewhat rare, but I feel like I can do this for a long time to come and I really do feel my best days are ahead of me both on and off the field.
What do you do to relieve the stress?
Well, the stresses that come your way you can’t control, but how you handle that is another thing. It’s not so much in game. The in-game stuff is the most fun part of your day when the game is going on. But the before and after the game and how you handle certain things I think those are things that you can always do a little better job with. If it’s a 2 on a 10, you don’t need to ramp it up to a 5 on a 10 or if it’s a 5 you don’t need to ramp it up to an 8 on a 10. See it for what it is and handle it accordingly. You can’t do everything and I do a good job of delegating and I don’t believe in micromanaging, but having said that I have always felt strong about taking care of those around me and whether it be on or off the field, professionally or personally. I’ve taken a lot on over the years and some of the best advice I’ve probably had here is if you really want to do that you’ve got to take care of yourself first from time to time and that will allow you to take care of others.
Are you going to be able to leave more of the job at the ball park?
No because that’s easier said than done. I’ve think I do a pretty good job of leaving what I need at the ballpark. But my mind is always working. I think what you can do is park it, so to speak, and pick it back up where it was tomorrow versus trying to figure it out for the next 12 hours till you back here. Sometimes that can work against you or not be helpful at all.
The other part of this too just from an educational standpoint is that I don’t mind saying that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I’ve never been a big sleeper. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this and this was a big part. I mentioned that perfect storm this was a big part of that perfect storm in regards to what happened to me.
Typically you are supposed to be in the 96 to 98 percent oxygen range when you are sleeping. I was down to 80 percent if not below. And that’s to you heart and to your brain and affects you the entire day. It doesn’t’ allow your body to catch up.
I’ve slept better even prior this, trying to step away from it before getting diagnosed of sleep apnea. And afterwards, I’ve slept better than I ever have. For all you people out there that scuffle sleeping, you might want to take heed of that.
You go to a sleep study and if you are diagnosed with it they give you a little mask that helps you sleep as you work through everything. It’s something that’s gaining a lot of momentum because people are recognizing how important it is.
Are you working with anyone to deal with the daily stresses?
Well, Dr. Storey has been great. He’s the guy I met with on a daily basis. And other doctors, rehab doctors over at harbor view, have been great. I’ve had conversations with them. Obviously, everyone has been very familiar with my story. They’ve got a pretty good understanding of what’s going on. I’ve got a lot of good advice from a lot of people. It hasn’t been one particular person. It’s been doctors that are specialists in their one particular area. One thing I’ve learned, I’m going to listen to the person who is a specialist in that particular area of the body. I’m going to roll with it. That’s what I’ve done. And it’s been a good decision.
So to all the people who have given me that type of advice, I have listened to it and I do trust it. I appreciate it and I’m going to keep going.
Any worries about a stressful decision late in game?
I wouldn’t be here if I felt that. I don’t have any doubts about that. I’m confident by nature. I’m confident in my ability to run a game. I’ve got good people around me. I always feel like I’ve been at my best when thing have been at our thickest during the game. The game is not the biggest part. If anything, it’s maybe the smallest part. That’s the fun part of the day.
Any nerves coming for this game?
No I think was a little anxious coming back because I knew it was going to be kind of a big deal. I wanted to get in front of the players, the coaches and in front of you guys too. I look forward to seeing the fans out there. I’m anxious to get back and get in uniform. I’m anxious to watch to these guys play. I get excited to watch these guys play. And to see it in person, versus listen it to on the radio or watch it on TV and be there on the front lines. I’m looking forward to it.
What was it like talking to the players?
It was good. I really haven’t been in front of them like that for a month. I just felt like I needed to get in front of them. I really had no particular message. I just wanted to let them know that I’m OK and I’m going to be OK. And let them know that we have a certain number of games left to go. I appreciated their fight especially on this particular road trip. Since I’ve been gone, we’ve lost some tough games, we’ve had some tough luck, but we have a long way to go. Crazy things have happened in the last 30-35 games of the season. We’ve seen it happen before. I just want them to focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves and got there and keep getting better. If we keep getting better, we’ll be more consistent and we’ll keep heading in the right direction.
How closely were you able to follow the team?
Pretty closely. Robby did a good job; I wasn’t going to bother him. I told him, ‘Listen, I’m not going to call you, you know, and bother you. But I’m always available for you to call me or text me,’ and Carl’s the same way. I know the coaches did too, and of course Jack and I talk every day.
I felt like the communication was good, but I didn’t want to be looking over his shoulder. I wanted him to manage the club, I can’t do it from my house. He’s here, he’s privy, he gets it. I trust him and I thought he did a hell of a job so, but we had conversations along the way that helped me stay in the loop for the most part.
What’s the one thing you learned about yourself in the last month?
I never would have thought that I would be able to slow myself down, but when the doctor looks you in the eye and says ‘slow yourself down or else’ you know he’s not joking about it. And then the next doctor comes in and says the same thing, and the next doctor comes in, you know. I think when you have intensity and passion and you care so damn much, to a fault maybe, and you’re doing that all day long, eventually it’s going to catch up to you. I think that’s where it ended up with me.
I’m not the first manager to have to go through some time of sickness but this is a little bit unique I guess in and of itself. Pretty sure I was the youngest guy in that stroke ward I can tell you that much.
Again, I look at everything as, this all happened for a reason. I’m going to be a better man and a better professional for this.
How do you keep yourself slowed down?
Well I think I got one hell of a reminder now. I’ve got a great reference point here. I did not like not being in control and I didn’t have it there for a couple days, and that’s one hell of a scary feeling.
So then once they figured it all out, this that and the other, I’ll never need another reminder again. Because when I was laying there, that’s enough reminder for me.
How did you see the games different?
Well I listened to you, Rick, I listened to Sims, I listened to Blowers and everybody else. No, it was good. I told the guys out there, every now and again I’d turn the volume down, I’d turn it up, I’d get in the car and listen to the radio so I couldn’t sit there and watch it all the way through, it was just too tough.
Is that a reflection on us?
(laughing) No, no not at all, it’s more about me. But I do believe this: I saw from a perspective that I have not seen before. When you pull video you watch this hitter or this at-bat, you watch a little bit of this pitcher or opposition.
But you don’t ever during the season sit there and watch a whole game, you know what I mean? In real-time, obviously, unless you’ve been suspended a few times obviously like I have. So to be able to do that for months straight, it was educational. For me, it wasn’t so much about looking at it through a manager’s eyes. I was actually looking at it more through coach’s eyes. Because you know you find yourself dissecting more of the pitchers and the hitters and the infielders and the outfielders and the base running. That’s what I found myself doing, without purpose it’s just something that happened that way. Then late in the game you kind of get back in that manager mode, but it was interesting to see from that perspective, it really was. I told Robby and Carl it was a hell of a lot tougher to watch on TV, they’re calling BS on that from day one, they said it was a lot harder in the dugout, which I don’t doubt.
Did Robby have a different style of managing?
No I don’t think so. It’s tough to say because unless you’re down there and privy to all the conversation, who’s available who’s not available, the feel of the game the feel of the guys, you can’t really manage outside of it unless you’re in it. I thought Robby did a great job, sure there’s always a couple things you’d do different but nothing that comes to mind. He made a real solid choice, he wasn’t going to change who he was and he didn’t, and he doesn’t that’s who he is. He’s a solid baseball guy, cares about the right things and that’s a tough deal, I mean to just be thrown into that literally right there at that moment and then have to carry the torch for months, in arguably one of the most important times of the year. You talk about, you’ve heard me talk about you get down toward the end of July and into August, that’s when you find out. So, you know, I thought he did a great job.
You can’t help but take those things situationally, and then you don’t really know sometimes. But in the end, I think that’s why I kind of found myself from more of an instructional standpoint looking at these guys and breaking them down. Maybe it will help us a little bit.
What were you looking forward to most about this day?
Watching them play, being on the bench and watching them play baseball. It wasn’t talking to coaches or talking to them or talking to you guys, it was about getting out there and watching them play. That’s what I miss more than anything, I love watching them play, I love the passion, I love the fight, I love the fact that they’re going to work and continue to get better. Just to be a small part of that, that’s what I’m looking forward to.