The high school baseball season is still young and yet the Burbank High has already had its biggest victory of the season and it is worth far more than any Pacific League or CIF Southern Section championship.
That victory came as a result of the work of local paramedics and doctors at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. They are credited with helping save the life of coach Bob Hart, who is now in his 13th year with the program.
Hart suffered a massive heart attack on January 30 while the team was having practice.
Although it set him back temporarily, Hart has not missed a single inning this season.
“It happened on the field, but it really took place in my office. I went and sat down in my chair in my office and I could feel something was just not right,” Hart recalled. “I didn’t hesitate much and called my (assistant) coaches over and had them put the boys in the locker room. I didn’t want to subject them to the site of the whole thing. I called 911 and the paramedics showed up very quickly.”
Hart said when he first started feeling uncomfortable he tried to do what he could to minimize the pain.
“I initially was sweating quite a bit and I felt like I had heartburn times a million. I laid down to try to stretch it out so to speak and I could tell that wasn’t going to be the case,” Hart said. “Normally my instincts are I grew up in an era where you sucked it up and toughed it out, but I kind of had an instinct that something wasn’t right.
I suffered a major heart attack, a massive heart attack. (There was) 100 blockage. They call it the widowmaker,” Hart said. “I’m fortunate that I got on it quickly. The paramedics did an amazing job and the doctors did an amazing job. I spent a few days in the hospital and then I was fortunate enough to come home and I was back to work within three weeks.”
The 58-year-old coach who graduated from Burroughs High in 1978, said the incident has changed his life in so many ways.
“To be honest, I haven’t felt this good in 20-25 years physically and mentally, clarity wise. The support I have received from parents and my friends is the off the chart, heartwarming and amazing,” Hart said. “In a strange way, it has been a blessing of sorts, a second chance at life and a reset for me personally.”
Burbank High Co-Athletic Director Patrick McMenamin is one of the many people who have supported Hart in his return.
“We are very glad to have Coach Hart back on our baseball field,” McMenamin said. “Coach Hart has been the face of Burbank High baseball for more than a decade now. Our program is in very good hands under his leadership and guidance. Above all, he does an excellent job of teaching our student-athletes how to become responsible young men of character and integrity.”
Hart said he is now focused on doing what he didn’t take as seriously before.
“I’ve always taken care of other people and never really focused on my own health. This is giving me an opportunity to be that way and I’m taking advantage of it,” Hart said. “I changed my diet completely. I do quite a bit more walking than I was doing before. I’m blessed to be here.”
When it came to deciding when to come back to work, Hart said the doctors left it up to him.
“Everyone is different. They said whatever I can handle,” he said. “They encourage you to get up and start moving. They were all for me getting back to work when I was ready to go. I’m back on the field and feeling great.”
Hart said he recently had a chance to go see the paramedics who helped save his life.
“That was amazing. Those guys are everyday heroes. I wanted to make sure they understood how grateful I was and how lucky the community is to have them,” Hart said.
Hart added that he has received an outpouring of support from the Burbank High community.
“My players have been unbelievable,” Hart said. “My wife was out of town for a couple of weeks and the parents did a meal train for me. They were bringing me healthy food. I have completely changed my diet and I have probably dropped 15 to 20 (pounds) already.”
Although the Burbank High baseball team is looking forward to winning as many games as possible, it has already gone undefeated thanks to the return of coach Bob Hart.