02/17/2003 6:55 pm ET
Bechler's death shakes Rangers
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- News of the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler in a Fort Lauderdale hospital stunned the Rangers' camp and brought back painful memories for Texas general manager John Hart.
Bechler, who died from complications of a heat-related illness Monday morning, was taken by ambulance to the intensive care-unit of North Ridge Medical Center Sunday and initially diagnosed with heat exhaustion and dehydration.
He was 23.
"It's a tragedy to lose a life and all too familiar thing," Hart said. "The other thing that crosses my mind is Grover (Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove). He's been through this before."
In March of 1993, Cleveland pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin were killed and Bob Ojeda was injured in a boat accident on an off-day during spring training in Florida. Hargrove was the manager of the Indians and Hart was the general manager of the team.
"Baseball players and all young people feel invincible, but at some point you have to treasure every single day," Hart said. "I know his teammates and the guys he played against in the minor leagues are sensing a feeling of mortality."
Hart, who riding around the camp on a golf cart, was visibly shaken and took several moments before he addressed the topic of Bechler's death.
"The thing we went through in Cleveland was very difficult," Hart said. "We got a phone call and they said 'Here's what happened.' That was extremely tough."
The Rangers no longer have to contend with the Florida climate because the club moved their Spring Training camp to Surprise after 42 years in the Sunshine state. Several players, including Alex Rodriguez, have indicated they prefer training in the dry weather of Arizona to the humidity in Port Charlotte. Rodriguez, who was raised in Miami and said he enjoys the heat, trained in Peoria while with the Mariners.
"To me, having seven years experience of Spring Training in Arizona, I thoroughly enjoy the weather and feel it is a lot easier," Rodriguez said. "To me, it is more conducive to getting ready for the season. I thought Florida was a little tougher for those two years. The humidity wears you down a little bit more."
As a precaution, Rangers players, like all Major League players, fill out a questionnaire about their health status and are given a pre-event examination when they report to camp. After five days of activity, the players are given a full exam. All players are given an electrocardiogram.
Additionally, there are water stations at each of the 6 1/2 fields at the Surprise Complex and Rangers team doctor John Conway said the club has not changed its stance on maintaining hydration. He said the team relies on players to share knowledge on the status of their health .
"We are in an environment that is very hot so we have to make sure we have a lot of water," Conway said. "We go to the greatest extent we can to make sure the players are as hydrated as possible. What we did in Florida was already a lot. We are going to make sure the players are hydrated here."
Rangers manager Buck Showalter told his team about Bechler's death during the workout.
"I wanted them to hear it from me first so they can be prepared," Showalter said. "We are all going to die one day. It's tragic when a person is so young, but whether it's a professional baseball player or somebody from the grounds crew, we should all feel the same about it."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.