Rockies manager Jim Tracy feels better than ever
Jim Tracy fainted three times in a five-year span, nothing that concerned the Colorado manager enough to seek medical help. He was always away from the baseball field anyway.
Yet Tracy has experienced moments during the season when he felt physically off and dizzy, even fatigued beyond what is normal over the course of a grueling 162-game schedule or for the quick turnaround to play a day game after a night game.
Never one to run to the doctor or bring extra attention to himself when his focus is always all on his players, he kept quiet about any issues - though heart disease runs in Tracy's family. The last thing the longtime skipper wanted was for his bosses, or anyone else for that matter, to think he wasn't sharp enough to write the lineup card every day or make a tough decision from the dugout with the game on the line.
''I didn't say anything because I didn't want them to think I was losing my edge,'' Tracy said. ''I never felt like I was having a heart attack (during the fainting). I never felt like I had symptoms. I never felt physically in danger.''
It took collapsing at the winter meetings two months ago in Florida for Tracy to change his tune.
He was taken to a hospital for a mild arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. Once back in Denver, he underwent a stress test and a tilt table test of the cardiovascular system to determine why he was fainting from time to time.
Now, headed for the start of spring training at Colorado's sparkling new spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., in a matter of days, Tracy feels like a new person.
The 55-year-old Tracy was diagnosed with high blood pressure during spring training 2003 while managing the Los Angeles Dodgers and went on blood pressure medication that included a diuretic.
After his December episode, Denver cardiologist Dr. Barry Molk decided to drastically decrease Tracy's meds - and it turned out to be the right move. He has more energy than he has in some time. He no longer is on the diuretic.
''I'm doing better than I was doing physically at any point during the course of the 2010 season,'' Tracy said in a phone interview. ''I just didn't need as much medicine. And I needed that little tap on the shoulder from upstairs that I needed to go in for a little tuneup.''
Tracy was ready to get onto an elevator at the winter meetings hotel with Colorado coaches Carney Lansford and Tom Runnells when he collapsed around 1 a.m. on Dec. 7. He was carried out on a stretcher and taken to a hospital in the Orlando area, then released later that day.
Tracy is quick to point out that his health scare pales in comparison to what one of his former pitchers has endured. John Green is the Los Angeles Dodgers scout whose 9-year-old daughter, Christina, was killed in the Tucson shooting rampage last month that left six dead and 13 more injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
In his first managerial gig in 1987, Tracy had Green at Class-A Peoria, Ill., the Chicago Cubs' affiliate in the Midwest League.
''There's not a word to describe that. I encourage everybody to offer a prayer for John and (wife) Roxanna,'' Tracy said. ''It hit really close to home. I kept looking at the television in disbelief.''
Tracy, who stopped a decades-long habit of chewing tobacco last February, learned this winter just how important it is to get regular checkups and stay on top of any health concerns - no matter how minor they might seem.
His mother needed a pacemaker and his grandfather died at age 55 from a heart attack.
And Tracy works in the pressure-packed world of professional sports. He managed the Dodgers from 2001-2005 and Pittsburgh in 2006-07 before taking over the Rockies in late May 2009.
Tracy earned NL Manager of the Year honors that season after replacing Clint Hurdle and leading Colorado to a 74-42 record and the NL wild card.
The Rockies went 83-79 last season for a third-place division finish behind the World Series champion San Francisco Giants and San Diego.
Tracy should be much improved in terms of energy in 2011. He sure hopes so.
''I was physically tired during the season, sometimes even before going to work,'' Tracy said. ''Wow, it was like you'd been drug through the wringer.''