Two Hearts: The Hall of Famer and Journeyman Football Player
When pressed to answer the question, what do a Hall of Fame baseball player and journeyman football player have in common?
First, let’s get down to the backstories of Rod Carew and Konrad Reuland, two people that will forever be etched together.
Rod Carew was a major league ballplayer for both the Minnesota Twins and California Angels from 1967 to 1985. In his storied 19-year career, the second baseman made 18 All-Star Games (1967-1984), won the AL Rookie of the Year (1967), AL MVP (1977) and had his #29 retired by two franchises, just to name a few accomplishments.
Collecting more than 3,000 hits for his career, Carew also had more than 1,000 RBI and a .328 batting average. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1991, Carew was one of the most gifted players to ever lace up the cleats.
Even more amazing is that Carew joined an elite group of players who were part of the armed forces as well. A Marine Reserve for six years, he was also a combat engineer until his rookie season with Minnesota in 1967.
The heart and determination he gained from his military service made him a better player, as he put it so eloquently:
“When I joined the Marine Corps, it was a life-changing event for me because I learned about discipline. When I first came up to the big leagues in 1967, I was a little bit of a hot-head. But after two weeks of war games every summer, I realized that baseball was not do-or-die. That kind of discipline made me the player I became.”
In September of 2015, Carew suffered a massive heart attack while golfing in California. Hospitalized for more than six weeks, he was inserted with an assist device for his heart, as well as having other surgical procedures. Making great strides in his recovery in 2016, Carew was informed that he would eventually need a heart transplant.
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Konrad Reuland was a big, towering tight end who was trying to make a name for himself on the gridiron.
An undrafted free agent, he signed onto the San Francisco 49ers practice squad in 2011, but got his first real chance with the New York Jets when he was claimed off waivers. Getting his most playing time with both the Jets (2012-2013) and Baltimore Ravens (2014-2015), Reuland bounced around the league until 2016.
Suffering from a brain aneurysm in December of 2016, Reuland passed away and the age of 29. He finished his short NFL career with a total of 12 catches for 90 total yards and no touchdowns.
So how do a Hall of Famer and journeyman football player correlate with each other? It’s not about the statistics each one had, but rather the kind of person one was in his life, and the kind of person one will continue to be.
Days after Reuland’s death, Rod Carew was scheduled to have his heart and kidney transplant surgery. The heart and kidneys he would be receiving were those of Konrad Reuland, the journeyman tight end. The two were not only the same blood type, but were both immune from Hepatitis B, making it even more of a match.
Whether you had 3,000 career hits or 12 career receptions, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is what kind of person you are. A person taken too soon from us gave someone else a second chance at life.
Per ESPN.com, Rod Crew will not take it for granted:
“I will take care of this one because I’ve been given a second chance, and God knows how I feel and what I’m going to do for him.”
The campaign Carew started with the American Heart Association is named “Heart of 29.” Working with the Reuland family, it was named that because of Carew’s baseball number throughout his career. With Reuland passing away at the age of 29, it not only adds more meaning to the title, but gives these two people another connection in continuing one life because of the other.