10/04/2003 2:30 PM ET
Newman's return an inspiration
Al Newman talks to media prior to Game 3
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Al Newman's biggest worry Saturday morning was getting the ball to home plate on the fly, since he hasn't thrown batting practice in weeks. That says plenty about the Twins third base coach's once-fragile health.
Nearly four weeks after a brain hemorrhage forced him into a Chicago hospital, Newman rejoined the Twins on the field for the first time. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Saturday's Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
It was the latest of many intersections between Newman's fight for his life and his club's playoff lives. The Twins' first home game this postseason was also the first time Newman spoke publicly about his ordeal.
He was serious, yet relatively loose about his circumstance. Though he doesn't know precisely what led to the hemorrhage that caused his writhing headaches before a Sept. 10 contest against the White Sox in Chicago, he half-joked that it would be the last time he cracked his neck, something he used to do every day.
"I was walking down to the dugout to prepare my charts for the game," Newman said. "My neck felt a little stiff and I tried to crack my neck, and I just remember a tremendous amount of pain. And I continued to the dugout, set up my charts and I had trouble holding my head down because I had to look down at my chart. So I figured I would just go in and get a couple of Tylenol.
"By the time I got to the training room, I was sweating profusely and I could hardly hold my head up. Then I remember getting in the ambulance, and from there it's a bit foggy."
He was unconscious for almost three weeks following his emergency brain surgery, but he doesn't count it in days. He remembers it more precisely in the standings.
"When I went to the hospital," Newman recalled, "the doctors were all White Sox fans and they were two games up, and I wished them luck. And then when I came to, they told me [the Twins] were 2 1/2 games up. I couldn't believe it, because I didn't realize I'd been out that long."
He also didn't realize how the Twins had rallied behind him. While manager Ron Gardenhire kept his jersey in the dugout, general manager Terry Ryan stayed behind in Chicago for over a week to watch over Newman and his family.
There are some days Newman was conscious but can't quite remember. One day he won't forget, however, is the day the Twins clinched the division. He saw the end of the Twins game that night 10 days ago, then fell back asleep while the White Sox and Royals both lost to clinch it.
"When I woke up, the first person I saw was Gardy running around the field with my jersey," Newman said. "Needless to say, a couple of tears did go down my cheeks. I was very thankful, not that they would forget me, but that Gardy took my jersey and made me a part of it with the players."
Gardenhire nearly managed to make Newman tear up again on Saturday. Most days, it's a utility player or backup catcher who handles the ceremonial first pitch. With Newman on the mound, it was Gardenhire behind the plate for the ball. He gave Newman a bear hug afterward, as the capacity crowd at the Metrodome roared.
And yes, Newman got it to the plate.
The team all saw him in person during workout day Friday, but seeing him on the field meant plenty. "That was exciting just to see him again," Gardenhire said of his Friday visit before Saturday's game. "Just to see him smile."
He'll watch the rest of the Twins postseason from behind the scenes, and his fulfilling a winter league managerial assignment in Puerto Rico is out of the question.
"The stiffness in my neck is probably the toughest thing for me now," he said. "Other than that, I feel pretty darn good."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.