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O's prospect Bechler dies
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02/17/2003 6:22 pm ET 
O's prospect Bechler dies
Prospect had collapsed Sunday on practice field
By Becky Dubin / MLB.com

Steve Bechler was 35-48 with a 3.82 ERA in five minor league seasons. (Fernando Medina/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- One day after Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Steve Bechler collapsed on an auxiliary practice field behind the ballpark, he died of multi-system organ failure at 10:10 a.m. Monday in North Ridge Medical Center.

An autopsy is expected to begin Tuesday morning, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper told The Associated Press on Monday. Perper, who is overseeing the case, said the results of the autopsy could take up to a few weeks.

Practice was canceled for the day Monday, and it was not known if the team would practice Tuesday.

The Commissioner's Office withheld reacting to the tragedy, with spokesman Rich Levin saying, "We're going to wait to find out more about what happened."

Orioles team physician William Goldiner did not attend to Bechler at the hospital, but he was present in the intensive care unit Sunday night and when Bechler died Monday morning.

Goldiner said at a news conference the team called that the clinical syndrome of heat stroke, in which the body overheats, led to "cell death" and then organ failure.

"Usually, one organ system and then another [goes], and often times the result is what happened," Goldiner said. "That was despite aggressive intervention."

After being admitted to the hospital Sunday afternoon, Bechler was responsive in a "less-than-productive" way, according to Goldiner. Because Bechler was short of breath, doctors inserted an airway and put him on respiratory support. Bechler was then sedated and was "not conscious [that he knew of] after that point," Goldiner said.

"The staff there was aggressive, and he was treated in an excellent way and a very professional way, from everything that I observed," Goldiner said. "He would rebound at times, and they thought they were getting ahead of it. Invariably then, and what is characteristic of this syndrome, another organ system would fail. And eventually, it led to his death this morning."

Goldiner said Bechler's temperature reached 108 degrees at one point.

The team did not release the cause of death until a 1:30 p.m. news conference because Bechler's parents and some of his brothers were en route from Medford, Ore., and could not be contacted. The family flew from Medford to Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami, where the Orioles had a car waiting to drive them to the Spring Training facility. Bechler's wife, Kiley, told his family of the news via cell phone when they arrived in Miami.

Beattie had confirmed early Monday morning that Bechler was still critically ill but that he was unable to provide any further information.

"Really, with respect to what's going on, we have been somewhat, I guess, silent out of respect for Steve's family and his wife," Beattie said.

Kiley Bechler, who is more than seven months pregnant, arrived in Fort Lauderdale late Sunday night after the team reached her on her cell phone. She had been driving cross country from Baltimore to their home in Oregon. Kiley, who had been driving with her stepfather, flew out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kiley, Goldiner and vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan left for the hospital to check on Bechler at 9:15 a.m. from the team's complex. Flanagan spent the night at the hospital with Bechler.

"In layman's terms, as he got into the hospital, his condition worsened," Beattie said.

The AP reported Monday afternoon that Perper acknowledged a published report that a bottle of a supplement containing ephedrine was found in Bechler's locker.

Ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant found in some dietary supplements, has been linked to heatstroke and heart attacks.

The Washington Times had earlier reported that it had been told by an Orioles source that Bechler had a bottle of a supplement in his locker that contained ephedrine.

Asked about the report, Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said: "I can't confirm or deny it."

"We'll cooperate in every way with the medical examiner's office. Everything we find we'll turn over and apprise them of," Stetka added.

On Sunday, Bechler had completed almost 60 percent of the team's running drills for the day and looked winded in between repetitions, which "is not unusual," especially on a high-humidity day, according to manager Mike Hargrove.

This, combined with the fact that Bechler looked ashen and was leaning up against the fences that surround the field, prompted Hargrove to have assistant trainer Brian Ebel check him out. After having Bechler sit down on the grass, a motorized cart drove him back to the trainer's room in the Orioles' clubhouse at 11:35 a.m. Bechler was given a sports drink for energy, but that didn't help.

Once back in the training room, Bechler was laid flat on a bed to help lower his blood pressure and was given more fluids to hydrate his body.

"As he laid there, he got worse," Hargrove said.

By 11:52 a.m., two emergency medical technicians from Station 53, which is located next to the ballpark at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, had arrived. Ten minutes later, two Fort Lauderdale fire rescue and paramedic trucks with five crew members arrived on the scene.

Bechler was then wheeled out of the clubhouse at 12:12 p.m. on an ambulance stretcher while being given oxygen and intravenous fluids. He was then taken to the hospital.

O's pitchers Matt Riley and Rodrigo Lopez were on the auxiliary field when Bechler became ill.

"He was really, really incoherent," Riley said.

Lopez said only that he saw Bechler lying on the grass, apparently overwhelmed by the heat. The temperature at midday was 81 degrees, and humidity was 70 percent.

"It was very hot out there. It's hard to stay hydrated," Lopez said.

Bechler pitched a career-high 178 innings for Double-A Bowie, where he began the year, Triple-A Rochester and the O's last season. He was recalled from Rochester on Sept. 3 after the Red Wings' season ended and made three relief appearances in Baltimore. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 6 against the Anaheim Angels and gave up one run in two relief innings.

Bechler was 35-48 with a 3.82 ERA in five minor league seasons.

Becky Dubin Jenkins is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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