EGF Legion Baseball Classic: Getting a second chance
Third base at Stauss Park has been like a second home for Kevin Nunn. He was a standout at the position for the East Grand Forks American Legion, completing his eligibility in 1986. And he's now in his third season as the EGF Legion coach. But Nu...
Third base at Stauss Park has been like a second home for Kevin Nunn.
He was a standout at the position for the East Grand Forks American Legion, completing his eligibility in 1986. And he's now in his third season as the EGF Legion coach. But Nunn's usual time in the third-base coaching box at Stauss when EGF is batting has been limited this summer.
This weekend at the East Grand Forks Classic, as has been the case most of the summer, Nunn is working primarily from inside the dugout.
He still calls the shots. But a heart attack the 45-year-old suffered in March has forced Nunn to cut back on some of his usual coaching activities.
"There are still times I'll grab a bat, swing it and think, 'God, I miss this,' '' Nunn said. "But I know I'm limited.
"The positive thing is I'm still here. I'm still with my family. And I can still come to the ballpark every day and do my coaching. I'm very fortunate."
The problems for Nunn began on Feb. 29. He woke up that Wednesday with chest pain, but figured it was only some kind of virus. Later that day, he had pain in his arm; Nunn figured it was a combination of cold weather and a tear he's had in his rotator cuff. He did make an appointment to see a doctor the next day, but a storm forced its cancellation.
Nunn is an assistant baseball coach at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., under Steve Gust, another former East Grand Forks American Legion player. The team left on a road trip to Salinas, Kan., on Friday, March 2. The next night, at the motel with the Wesleyan team, Nunn had a near-disastrous experience.
"It got really hard to breathe," Nunn said. "I told Gusto I thought we needed to go to a hospital. I was taken to an emergency room, and the medical people in the ambulance said I was having a heart attack. They (later) told me that if I had waited another 12 minutes, it could have been fatal."
Instead, Nunn was in the Wesleyan gymnasium eight days later, ready for practice. "But the kids kicked me out. They told me to go home and get some rest," Nunn said.
Not ready to quit
Nunn said he never felt he was done with baseball, a sport that has always been a focal part of his life.
Nunn did return to his coaching duties with Dakota Wesleyan, and returned after the college season to East Grand Forks for his Legion coaching duties. But he's changed his role.
Nunn throws batting practice only on a limited basis. He no longer is on the field hitting grounders to the infielders and fly balls to the outfielders in pregame warmups.
And he's rarely in his customary third-base coaching box during games. Instead, Craig Pietruszewski -- the East Grand Forks Sacred Heart High School baseball coach in the spring whose son, Michael, is on the Legion team -- picks up coaching duties in the box whenever possible.
"I try to avoid being in the coaching box," Nunn said. "I get a little more anxious when I'm out there. I'm into the game more, and I sometimes get chest pains when that happens. I'm less stressed when I'm in the dugout. I miss it -- being in the coaching box and working more with the kids."
But, Nunn adds, "I feel lucky. I've got a second chance some people don't get."