The ping of bat meeting ball.
Some background tunes.
Players yelling encouragement to each other.
It helps make up the normal sounds of pregame preparations for the Oak Hill Red Devils, and for thousands of other baseball teams.
With all that as part of the backdrop Monday afternoon, Mark Bloomfield discussed a 2018 health scare that very nearly cost him his life, depriving him of the chance to hear any of those magical sounds again.
At age 45, Bloomfield, an assistant coach with the Oak Hill Red Devils, suffered a heart attack returning from summer baseball games involving the Red Devils at Shady Spring on June 26.
Nearing Oak Hill when driving home from the games, Bloomfield recalled the onset of his problems. "I started having chest pains, and eventually it was incapacitating," he said. "Somehow, I drove on to the hospital; I coded immediately when I went into the ER, and several times after." Medical personnel finally got him moved to Raleigh General and stabilized him. The verdict was a "100 percent blockage of the (left anterior descending) artery, which is what they refer to as the Widow Maker."
After a stay of two or three days in Beckley, during which he said he was unconscious the whole time, Bloomfield was flown to Morgantown.
"The main concern was how much oxygen had I lost to the brain," he said. "My organs had completely shut down. They started asking me questions immediately when I woke up, and I could answer them, which means that at least cognitively I was aware of where I was and what had happened."
He was in the hospital in Morgantown for slightly over three weeks, but that wasn't the original outlook. "They first told me I'd be there for months and likely disabled permanently," he said.
"The first thing I was told when I woke up at the ER was ... 'you need to get your wife here, you don't have very long.' From that point, the prognosis became better that I would live but they weren't ever very optimistic that my heart would function at a rate where I could be out coaching baseball again, especially this soon."
Bloomfield's a smart man, so he knows he's blessed to have a second chance to be back out on the baseball diamond, or anywhere else, today.
"A lot of prayers and a lot of faith, and I just continued to get better," he said. "Every day, I got a little bit better and a little bit better, until they let me go home."
Bloomfield eventually returned and participated in Oak Hill's offseason workouts, and he went back to his job as an investigator with the insurance commissioner's office in Charleston on a regular schedule last fall.
"I had probably been out of the hospital maybe three or four weeks when that (offseason conditioning) started," he said. "During those first few weeks, I was tired, just trying to get through it.
"My main purpose there was just to be back, be present there, so they knew I was OK. It was rough on the kids." He simply wanted things to be "normal."
• • •
A first-team all-state baseball player and key component of OHHS state tournament teams in 1988 and 1990, as well as a three-time all-conference performer for West Virginia State, Bloomfield said there were signs of an impending heart attack, but he didn't put two and two together.
"I had some symptomatic things that were happening before that I didn't realize were symptoms. I was using inhalers for what I thought were asthmatic issues. I was having severe shoulder pain in my right side; I had always been told left side pain was heart attack, so I kind of ignored it and ... threw batting practice every day and went on with my life.
"I had run 35 minutes in bleachers across the way here on the football field and did 400 or 500 push-ups and sit-ups that day, the day I had the heart attack."
One of his problems, he said, was drinking energy drinks to try to get a leg up on getting to work early so he could get the job done before heading out for long evenings at the ball park. "You've got to be very careful if you take in those kinds of things."
As life has moved forward and his recovery continues, he says, "I actually function better. I feel better day to day, other than I get tired a lot easier than I did before. I can't throw BP as often as I did before. Other than that, I'm as healthy as I've been."
• • •
What has he taken away from his ordeal, besides an obvious enhanced appreciation for life?
"When I was awake and alert enough, and I didn't have the tube in, I asked about where my kids were, how everybody was doing and did everybody know I was ok, and I asked my wife (Amy, a speech language pathologist) if I'm going to be able to coach. ... She told me now that she lied to me and said, yeah, you'll be able to coach; she didn't think I would, nobody really did."
He's now been handed a blessing and the opportunity to embrace life just a little more.
"That was one of the things I prayed about," Bloomfield said. "I don't want to just live; I want to be able to live and be healthy and be able to do things with my kids (sons Derek and Nathan, the former an ex-Red Devil now at Glenville State and the latter a junior baseball player for the Red Devils, and eight-year-old daughter Kendall)."
That family extends to the OHHS dugout, too. "Everybody asks me how many kids I have, I tell them I've got 24. All these guys kind of belong to me, so I want to be out here with them any time I can."
He praised the team's coachability and overall academic prowess. "You got the sense that this team was different, that this team could do maybe a little more than other teams because of the way they interact with each other. It's not always about having the most talented kids, but having the right kids."
Oak Hill lost a 10-0 decision to Shady Spring Monday night, but the Red Devils get another shot at the Tigers tonight to continue along their potential path to the state tournament.
• • •
His outlook now is different, Bloomfield says. He said he saw something recently on social media concerning the number of friendships people had on Facebook and elsewhere on the web.
"When something happens, ... you get to the end and you think maybe this is your last, short few moments on earth, and you look around and there's a small group of people that are sitting in the room with you. It's family, it's close friends," said Bloomfield. "This is my family. A lot of these kids (motioning to the practice field) came to the hospital the night this happened and sat for hours, knowing they wouldn't be able to see me, to know the condition."
He's now focusing more on "people who care about me and the people that I care about, my brother, my sister, my parents, my wife, who was there every single day (and) she never left."
Rather than trying too hard to make people happy or impress somebody, he says the main objective now is to concentrate on the folks that matter the most. "I'm at the point now where I realize that a select few are going to get 100 percent of what I have to offer."
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