Eric Wedge managing life differently
One month after stroke, Mariners skipper returns with much healthier outlook
SEATTLE -- How do you handle the constant 24/7 stress of managing in the majors, in which every decision you make is subject to the successful execution of the players as well as the relentless second-guessing of media and fans? Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked the key is, "Drink more beer.'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "I eat.''
On a much more serious note, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that, going forward, he will slow himself down, improve his mindset and also sleep better. He'd better. He must. A month ago, Wedge suffered a stroke that kept him away from the dugout while he underwent weeks of medical attention, tests and recovery. He finally returned to the job Friday.
"I feel great. I feel better than I have in 10 or 15 years,'' Wedge said before Friday's game against the Angels. "I think it was the perfect storm. A lot of things happened that culminated in that episode I had a month ago. So you make some changes so you make sure you don't go back there.
"I've always lived my life in a certain way. And I care about things I think you should care about. People you should care about. I'm not going to change that, but how I go about my business -- more so internally -- I think I can do a better job.''
Friday night provided a good test of his ability to reduce his stress. In what has been an all-too-familiar scenario for the Seattle manager, the Mariners lost 2-0 to the Angels while managing just four singles.
"As the game wore on, I felt more and more comfortable,'' Wedge said. "By the end of the game, I felt like I was right there. I wasn't sure how the energy was going to be, but the energy was there; the focus was there. We just didn't have a whole lot of action tonight.''
Wedge is 45, but he looks significantly older after managing a decade in the majors. He was on the field for batting practice July 22 when he felt himself losing control of his body. He felt it first in his head. Then in his legs. And then in his vision. He summoned team trainer Rick Griffin, and the Mariners helped him off the field. "By the time I got to the dugout steps, I was pretty much dead weight,'' Wedge said.
He spent several days in the hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a stroke, a diagnosis that quickly got his attention.
"It's a shot across the bow. It's a mulligan. It's a heads-up. And I'm taking it as such,'' Wedge said. "Listen, I live my life with a great deal of passion, and I believe in that. I love my family to no end. My wife and two kids. I love this game, and I respect it so much. I feel so strong about this organization, and I put my heart and soul into it. But 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.''
One thing that will help is improved sleep. Wedge said he was also diagnosed with sleep apnea, which, he says, contributed to the stroke.
"I've never been a big sleeper,'' he said. "Doing a lot of research on this, I think it was a big reason for the stroke. Typically, you're supposed to be in that 96 to 98 percent oxygen range when you're sleeping. I was down to 80 percent, if not below. That's to your heart and brain, and it affects you the entire day and doesn't allow your body to catch up.''
I'm 45 years old, and 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. I really do feel like my best days are ahead." -- Eric Wedge
Wedge said using a sleep mask has helped tremendously.
"I never thought I would be able to slow myself down,'' Wedge said. "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 then the next doctor says it.
"When you have so much intensity and passion and you care so damn much, to a fault maybe, and you do that all day long, it catches up with you. And I think that's what happened with me.''
Still, it isn't easy. Especially when your team is having another losing season.
"It's a constant buzz, a constant humming of what goes on with the team,'' Scioscia said of managerial stress. "Even when you're going to bed, you're wondering, 'OK, what's the rotation going to be?' It's with you 24 hours a day.''
Wedge said he feels like he's always been good about leaving the job at the ballpark but will try to do even better.
"I think my mind is always working,'' he said. "What you can do is park it, so to speak, and pick it back up tomorrow rather than try to figure it out for the next 12 hours until you get back here. Sometimes, that can work against you or not be helpful at all.''
General manager Jack Zduriencik said there was never a question of Wedge not returning this season: "I was always told there was a good chance he would be back and he wanted to get back, but he just needed the time to put himself in position where he could be back. You look at him now and he looks great. He's lost weight. He looks good, and he's in great spirits.''
Wedge called his return "a new beginning,"
"I'm 45 years old, and 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. I really do feel like my best days are ahead.''