Cardiac survivors play ball to benefit cardiovascular research - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Cardiac survivors play ball to benefit cardiovascular research

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Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2011 4:45 pm | Updated: 6:12 pm, Fri Mar 4, 2011.

Mel Freund races from first to third base on a seventh-inning single at Liberty Buick Field in Sun City West and tallies the winning run moments later for the Paul Tone Agency.

Teammates bound out of the third-base dugout Tuesday to celebrate the Sun Cities American League softball win. Freund smiles as the Paul Tone Agency improves its record to 2-1 with the 13-12 walk-off victory over Canyon State Air.

Freund scores a more important victory every time he steps onto a softball field.

Nearly seven years ago, the Illinois resident suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery.

“I had a great day when I had my heart attack,” the 74-year-old Freund recalled. “I played golf, had a few beers after my round, then came home and had a nice dinner.

“Then at 9 o’clock that night, I had a heart attack.”

Freund rebounded from his heart attack and will be joined by softball counterparts with similar stories at the upcoming Bill Bromley Memorial Cardiac Kids Senior Softball Tournament. The event begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 5, with the championship game scheduled at noon at Liberty Buick Field, 20447 R.H. Johnson Blvd.

The tournament is named for the softball player who started the event several years ago. All participants have overcome various “cardiac events.”

Four teams made up of more than 80 players will show off their athleticism and raise money to benefit the Sun Health Research Institute Center for Cardiovascular Research.

As the player-manager of the Paul Tone Agency, Phil D’Amico has always admired Freund’s abilities on a softball diamond.

“Some guys play ball,” D’Amico said. “Other guys are ballplayers. Mel is a ballplayer.”

D’Amico also shares membership in the Cardiac Kids club.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” said D’Amico, a retired insurance agent from Milwaukee.

Three years ago, D’Amico took his father to visit a cardiologist.

Following his father’s appointment, D’Amico pulled the cardiologist aside and mentioned that he’d experienced shortness of breath on recent occasions.

“I ran to third base after a triple and when I reached the bag, I was out of breath,” the 62-year-old D’Amico recalled. “I’d also had some slight jaw pain.”

The cardiologist scheduled subsequent tests and within days, D’Amico underwent an angioplasty and surgeons inserted a stent to alleviate the blockage in his arteries.

“They call what I have the “Widow Maker” because I displayed few symptoms when I was diagnosed,” D’Amico said. “That’s why I consider myself so lucky.”

After his heart attack, Freund realized he probably had ignored early warning signs, such as shortness of breath.

Freund had always stayed in good physical shape and worked previously as an official for youth basketball, soccer and baseball games.

Following months of recovery after his heart attack, Freund returned to umpire a baseball tournament.

Knowing his situation, colleagues decided to ease Freund into the tournament, letting him umpire the bases.

“After a couple games, I decided the bite the bullet,” Freund said. “I put on the equipment and got behind home plate for the next game.

“Wouldn’t you know it, my first game back and a foul ball hits me right in the chest?”

Fellow umpires and coaches from both teams raced to Freund’s aid, worried about the repercussions.

Freund took a moment and collected himself.

“I realized I was OK,” Freund said. “That helped me clear a mental hurdle.”

All of the participants in the upcoming Cardiac Kids tournament have cleared a mental hurdle or two in their efforts to overcome heart ailments.

They got back in the game.

That’s the message they want to pass along and celebrate next weekend.

Rich Bolas is the managing editor of the Daily News-Sun. He may be reached at 623-876-2523 or via e-mail at rbolas@yourwestvalley.com.

If You Go

WHAT: Bill Bromley Cardiac Kids Senior Softball Tournament

WHEN: 9 a.m. Feb. 5 (title game begins at noon)

WHERE: Liberty Buick Field, 20447 R.H. Johnson Blvd., Sun City West

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: 623-546-8983

DID YOU KNOW: All money raised at the tournament will go to the Sun Health Research Institute Center for Cardiovascular Research.

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