Monday marked the eighth Opening Day in South Bend for Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley. His time here includes a league championship as well as having his No. 51 retired. But this might be the most meaningful Opening Day for Haley yet. And that has nothing to do with what happens on the field. Because he very nearly wasn't here for it at all.
"Unfortunately or fortunately, I slept through it all," Haley says, as he begins to recount the story of a harrowing health scare this offseason.
Haley can look back on it with his trademark sense of humor now. But it was no laughing matter at the time.
It was Christmas Eve, and Haley was getting ready for a festive evening with his family and friends.
"All the sudden I started getting some pains in my stomach, and went into the hospital, went into the emergency room, and had a perforated bowel," Haley said. "And the next thing you know, it started getting worse and worse and worse. And the last thing I remember is being thrown on the surgical table with a mask on me..."
Haley spent the next 16 days in a coma. During that time, he lost 55 pounds. And it got scary for a little while. He struggled to get fluid out of his lungs.
"Then I woke up," Haley said, "and of course I turned to my wife and said, 'What's up?' She just goes, 'You have no idea.'"
Haley made it his goal to make it back in time for spring training. And he did. He won't coach third base for the first few weeks of the season and it'll take take him about a year to get back to 100 percent. But the important thing is, he is back at all.
"It's been a long road, but baseball motivates me, my family motivates me, this community motivates me," Haley said. "You knew I was going to be in the dugout no matter what. If they wheel me in there, I was going to be in there.
"I thank those that have helped me through this, the many, many prayers that our fans here, the baseball community, everybody's given to me, and helping my wife out, my family. This community is amazing and I owe them a lot. So hopefully I bring a championship to them this year, because they deserve it."