Arizona baseball: Andy Lopez details heart scare

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Head coach Andy Lopez talked about what happened in October

Arizona Wildcats head coach Andy Lopez missed all of fall practice due to open heart surgery that he had back in October.

While coach has been back the last few weeks heading into the 2014 season, he took some time to talk about what exactly happened during the fall, and how he continues to heal and improve as the season approaches.

The good news here is that coach was in good spirits, and actually made a few jokes about it, which makes it seem like the old Andy Lopez is back and ready for the season to start.

"I would be lying if there hasn't been one day where something happens that makes me stop and think 'Man, I was lucky'.

For six weeks, I felt something.  A little tugging in my neck.  Every now and then it would creep down (to his shoulder), and every now and then it would creep down my back.  It felt like a rubber band being stretched.

Well, I thought I was out of shape because I hadn't run for about four or five weeks because my back was hurting me, so I hadn't done any kind of conditioning, so I just said "hey, come on, you gotta get in shape'.  And for six weeks, I did it, and every time I would work out during that six week period, I felt it every single day.

Thank God for my wife, six weeks later she says 'what are you doing?'.  I was icing my neck one night, which I never do, I ice my back all the time.  So she was like 'well, go get it checked!'.

Three days later it's quadruple bypass.

I didn't have a heart attack.  It was also after they did the sonogram and the angiogram that they said that I had 90% blockage in my left main artery, the infamous 'widowmaker'.  And three others were blocked up too, so they wanted to get them all cleared up.

I've taken an annual physical for 25 years and I've never had high blood pressure.  And that's why I would say to others 'Be careful'.  I've never had high blood pressure, I've never had high cholesterol.  Never.  Not one time.  They said genetics, and I knew that, which is why I jog every day of the week for the last 40 years.  Six days a week, hot weather, cold weather, on the road, at home.  And stress, and I have no stress as a college coach (he said while laughing).  I have no stress working with 18, 19, 20-year olds.

Coach also talked about his rehab program, which includes a couple of other head coaches at Arizona.

I go in Monday, Wednesday, Friday to Fit at the River with Todd Judge.  We lift for 50-55 minutes, overall body workout.  I just lift, it's kind of neat.  They take my vitals before I workout, after i workout, they monitor everything and give me feedback about what's going on.  It's been great.

I was a guy that just did it on my own and now I have a guy who sits there and helps me, so I go through an overall lifting workout, and then six days a week I walk for about 35-40 minutes on a treadmill.

Todd works (Mike Candrea) out too, and Sean Miller too.  I've seen Mike a couple times at the workout place, I've seen Sean a couple times.  I know I joke about it, I like to laugh, but really it's nothing to laugh about.

I was unbelievably lucky.  I was a massive heart attack waiting to explode.  They said basically because I was working out, it was keeping me going, and I didn't have a heart attack.

As my cardiologist says, we wouldn't be having this conversation if you hadn't worked out.  Before the surgery, he asked me if I was scared, and I said I'm more mad.  And I said I'm mad because for 40 years I've been jogging, and I'm about to have open-heart surgery.  What's the good in that?

And they said, 'No, no, no coach, if you hadn't been jogging we wouldn't be having this conversation'.

Genetics are genetics man.  And the stress of this profession.  And it is stressful sometimes.

And then coach went into possible problems with coaching in college athletics, especially at a high-level like Arizona Baseball.

You're working with 18, 19, 20-year old kids.  Who are we kidding?  If you gave me the title of CEO, OK, I'm the CEO of a corporation, but my employees are 18-20 years old, and I expect them to perform well, and if they don't, you kind of feel it at times.

I've been lovingly scolded by everyone around me telling me I have to do a better job, like we all do as coaches.  I didn't want to admit this, but now that I've had open-heart surgery, who am I trying to fool?  You take it home, you sleep with it, you drive with it, you eat with it, you walk with it.  It never leaves your mind.  It's the first thing when you wake up in the morning and it's the last thing when you go to bed.  And I, for one, and for any coach out there, I would try like crazy to find something to get your mind off it.

Believe it or not, I have plans now in my life when I get home.  We have a real nice Jacuzzi that has a waterfall that leads into a swimming pool in our backyard.  I've lived there 12 years, and I've been in it like four times in 12 years.  What am I doing?  I'm honest with myself now, I wasn't before, and I wouldn't reveal it.  So I go for walks now.

I listen to the ocean on an app.  I do that daily.  And I get in that Jacuzzi.

You can't be at a 9 or 10 level all day, every day.  You gotta get back down, you gotta get a little relief.  I'm learning.

It was great to see coach in a good mood, and in a position where he felt like he could make jokes about it.  Let's hope that this is the last we ever have to hear of it and it doesn't affect this team and this program moving forward.

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