Rod Carew returned to Minnesota from California on Monday, flying for the first time since his heart transplant in December. He is here to take part in the Twins' celebration of the 50th anniversary of Carew's Rookie of the Year season (1967) and the 40th anniversary of his flirtation with .400 when he won the American League MVP Award in 1977.
Carew, 71, and his wife, Rhonda, also talked about the "Heart of 29" campaign they have started to raise awareness for heart issues.
Carew, a Hall of Famer who played for the Twins and Monday night's opponent, the Angels, for a total of 19 seasons, had a major heart attack in September, 2015. He had a heart and kidney transplant on Dec. 16, 2016, with the donor being former NFL player Konrad Reuland.
Carew met with the Twins a month ago in Los Angeles, as La Velle detailed in this story.
He gave some updates at a Monday news conference at Target Field.
On his rehab: "I’ve been doing some cardio rehab and things are coming along good, they’re pushing me and making sure I get my work in, and I’m also trying to push myself to make sure I get my work in because my drill instructor [motioning to his wife] right here would give me heck if I don’t do it right and work hard at it.”
“It’s been something that I don’t want to go through again, I don’t want any of my friends or anyone that I know to go through because it was something else. I’m so grateful my partner was there with me throughout the whole trip. ... I’m so grateful for her. It’s just been an unbelievable trip. My friend upstairs really took care of me, really guided me through this whole trip that we were both on.”
On returning to the Twin Cities: "It’s great to come back, this is my first trip flying, so I was really looking forward to it. Every time I come back to the Twin Cities I feel like I’m coming back home. I was a kid when I started playing here and a lot of people saw me … I had a really bad tantrum during those early days, but a lot of those people saw me grow up and do a lot of good things with this organization, so it was good to come home.”
On the June day in 1977 when he passed the .400 mark in a 19-12 victory over the White Sox: "I've won quite a few awards throughout the 19 years that I played in the big leagues, but the one thing that I always tell people, it’s not the seven Silver Bats that I won, or the MVP Award, or the Rookie of the Year -- it’s one day playing out a the old Met Stadium against the White Sox and getting six standing ovations during the course of the ballgame. ... Because I was a kid when I came here, and they watched me grow up, and they followed my career, and it was a special day because I was doing something that no one had ever done since Ted Williams and it was a tremendous honor."
Looking back at the past 18 months: "I never talk much about what I did or how I played when I played. To me, I was just doing my job when I took the field but to understand how close I came to death, I now realize what God has given me when he brought me to this world, he knew what he was doing. He knew what direction I was headed, and he stayed with me throughout that whole time, on days when I went 0-for-4 or 0-for-5s or if I went 10-for-12 or 10-for-13 or whatever, he was with me on both days. So baseball is just a game, and it’s only for a time, and I came to realize when I retire, I knew I would retire at the right time, and I did, I didn’t have inner qualms about not playing baseball any more, I had a different life that I had to lead, and I’ve got a very special lady to lead that life with me and do special things and spend time doing things together. It was just a game, a little boys’ game, but it was fun."
Carew was to throw out the first pitch before the Monday game against the Angels.