OK, we needed a story like this one. Tonight is Aaron Boone night at Wrigley Field, as the third baseman triumphantly returns to the Astros after undergoing open-heart surgery in March. You don’t hear “triumphant” and “Astros” in the same sentence very often, so enjoy it. Gratifying doesn’t half describe it.
Boone had just signed with the Astros and was going through his spring training paces in March when his doctor discovered that the heart irregularity he’s had since childhood — a defective aortic valve — had worsened. He required a somewhat risky open-heart surgery procedure to fix the problem. That is one hell of a way to get onto the 60-day disabled list.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I know I’ll be prepared to play,” said Boone, who will be activated when rosters expand on Tuesday. “I’m just looking forward to being back and being part of the team.”
Astros manager Cecil Cooper said he hadn’t mapped out a plan for Boone, but said he could start Wednesday against left-hander Ted Lilly. As for Tuesday’s game, Cooper made no promises.
“He’s available, but I can’t say if he’ll start,” Cooper said. “I’ll look at it and try to figure out a way to get him in there. There’s always that opportunity to pinch-hit or play defense or [double] switch. I haven’t laid out a specific plan for him.”
Boone admitted he will have some butterflies.
“I had those in the Minor Leagues, so I’m sure I’ll have them here, too,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.”
You remember Aaron Boone from such hits as:
- His 11th-inning homer for the Yankees that beat the Red Sox 6-5 in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
- Tearing ligaments in his knee in a pickup basketball game in Feb., 2004, thus prodding the Yankees to acquire Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers.
- Being a part of the only infield ever composed of two sets of brothers (for the Reds in 1998): First baseman Stephen Larkin, second baseman Bret Boone, shortstop Barry Larkin and third baseman Aaron Boone.
- Hitting the last-ever home run at Riverfront/Cinergy Field, on September 22, 2002.
- Both father (Bob) and grandfather (Ray) were Major Leaguers.
- Married to October, 1998 Playboy Playmate Laura Cover (below).
(Click on the pic for larger version)
Going into the surgery, Boone himself wasn’t sure if he’d play baseball again. But he rehabbed with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, and now has made it all the way back.
“Five months ago, no,” Boone told AP. “But I think fairly shortly after surgery and once I knew everything went well, I wouldn’t say it was a priority, but I certainly thought it was possible.”