Hall of Famer Rod Carew undergoes successful heart and kidney transplants

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On the field, Hall of Famer Rod Carew was regarded as one of baseball’s greatest hitters of all-time. That label was earned through his tenacious approach at the plate. Carew approached every at-bat like it was the most important of his career, battling until the bitter end and often winning. When he didn’t, he made his opponents earn every success enjoyed against him.

For the last 15 months, Carew has brought that same tenacity to his biggest battle off the field, which has literally been a fight for his life. On Friday, that fight took a positive turn as the Minnesota Twins announced the six-time batting champion underwent successful heart and kidney transplants during a 13-hour operation at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

“The entire Minnesota Twins family is happy to report that Rod Carew had a successful heart and kidney transplant surgery today at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and is expected to make a full recovery,” the Twins said in a statement on Friday. “After a 13-hour procedure that started shortly after midnight Pacific time, Rod is resting in recovery. We ask that all of Twins Territory and the entire baseball community keep Rod, his wife Rhonda, and the entire Carew family in your thoughts and prayers as Rod recovers.”

On Sept. 20, 2015, he suffered and survived what doctors often call a “widow maker” heart attack while playing golf. The quick and effective aid administered by EMTs and doctors, along with Carew’s tenacity, kept him going that day, but his health continued to decline in the weeks after, leading to heart failure and the need for a transplant.

Understanding the seriousness of his situation and knowing he was in a position to help others, Carew launched another battle against heart-related diseases and illnesses. Along with the Minnesota Twins and the American Heart Association, he helped establish the Heart of 29 Campaign, which is designed to raise awareness and funds to prevent heart attacks like the one he suffered.

The campaign has spotlighted around MLB all season, with Carew often front and center when his health allowed.

That included an emotional return to the Twins in spring training as a special instructor.

LaTroy Hawkins, Rod Carew, Eddie Guardado and Torii Hunter sport their
LaTroy Hawkins, Rod Carew, Eddie Guardado and Torii Hunter sport their “Heart of 29” shirts at spring training. (Twins)

Carew faces a lengthy recovery, but there’s hope now for good health and perhaps even a return to Twins camp this spring, which would allow the heart and tenacity of Rod Carew to shine once again.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!