ANAHEIM, Calif. - When Minnesota Twins great Rod Carew played baseball he left nothing to chance.
He worked harder than anyone else from the first day he put on the uniform until his last.
The numbers reflect his dedication. Carew was an 18-time All Star, seven-time batting champion and Hall of Fame legend.
His home in southern California is decorated with reminders of that hard work and incredible talent. Still humble at 71, Rod does allow himself a rare moment.
“Every now and then I might look at these and think, say to myself, God you were good (laugh), says Carew. "If my wife heard me say that she would say, Aww really?”
He's earned a pass. Not just because Carew's one of baseball's all-time greats, but because fate and faith have allowed him more time to live and love.
“Physically, I never thought I was going to have a heart attack,” says Carew.
A massive heart attack in September of 2015 nearly took his life.
“One of the guys is sitting on the floor with the paddles and he yells, let's go. Damn it we're losing him, we're losing him and then I was gone, says Carew. It was the last thing I remembered.”
Over the next year, Rod promoted heart education through his "Heart of 29 campaign." All the while, a mechanical heart pump implant was keeping him alive as he waited for a much-needed transplant.
And though Carew showed a brave face in public, in private, his faith was being tested. “What I did is I cried every night, every morning. I talked to him (God). I cried to him, not looking for a miracle but looking for something to happen and he did give me a miracle,” says Carew.
Konrad Reuland was a former NFL tight end. He was a healthy 6'-6" 270 pounds, until suddenly in November of last year, he suffered a fatal brain aneurysm. Only months earlier, he had become an organ donor by checking the box on his driver's license application.
Ironically, Konrad grew up just 15 minutes from Rod Carew, and as a young boy met the baseball legend. Konrad was 29 years old when he died. 29. Fate.
“I told the doctors, whomever gets this heart better deserve it because it was a good heart,” says Konrad's mother Mary Reuland.
Mary Reuland got her wish. So did Rod Carew. A successful heart and kidney transplant saved his life, and in the process it's allowed a grieving family a path to healing.
It's hard to find the right words to describe an incredible moment like this when Mary Reuland listens to Konrad’s heart in Rod Carew.
“For them to be able to hear that and hear that strength is still there. What a moment," says Rhonda Carew. "It was great.”
So it's not surprising that you'll find Konrad's photo in the Carew home, not far from his baseball accolades, a quiet reminder of how precious life really is.
And much like his daughter's request to keep her memory alive, Konrad Reuland's memory is alive with every beat of Rod's heart.
“This is a second chance at life – you're giving life, when you donate a part of your body to someone else – you're saying to that person, 'I want to keep you alive,'" says Carew. "'I want you to realize all that you're meant to do.'”
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