Aaron Boone to Have Open-Heart Surgery

Marisa ScolamieroAnalyst IMarch 19, 2009

Over the past couple of days, I've been involved in a lot of Yankee/Red Sox banter.

It started when I had dinner with some Red Sox fans last weekend, and has continued on into this week.

Last weekend, we got on the subject of where we all were when Aaron Boone hit the game winning home run in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox.

Naturally, the Red Sox fans didn't want to talk about where they were that night, but I remembered exactly where I was. I was a freshman in college, and I had class at 10 am the next day, which I was bummed about in case the game went into extra innings.

I was sitting on the end of my bed cross-legged in my Derek Jeter t-shirt with my hands clasped hoping for a miracle. 

It had already been a really intense game, and the Yankees had been mounting a slow come back against Pedro Martinez, and then the Red Sox bullpen.

When I saw Aaron Boone heading for the on-deck circle, my stomach dropped. He hadn't exactly been the most reliable guy on the team. His plate appearances were awful, and his ability to play third base was on some days non- existent. He made me miss Scott Brosius a lot.

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Yet, there was something different about him when he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. It was as if he knew he was going to do something special before the rest of us.

And just like that, he proved everyone wrong. On the first pitch, Boone hit a home run to send the Yankees to the World Series, and the Red Sox home crying.

From that point on, it didn't matter what he did. He was the guy that beat the Red Sox, which earned him elite status among Yankee fans.

The following offseason, Boone ended up hurting his knee in a pick-up game of basketball, which led the way to the Yankees signing Alex Rodriguez.

Since then Boone has played for Cleveland, Florida, Washington, and signed with the Astros this off season.

So last night, I'm watching the World Baseball Classic, and cringing as Adam Dunn made error after error at first base, when I see across the bottom of the screen that Aaron Boone will undergo open-heart surgery.

Hold on, what?

Boone is 36, what could he possibly need open-heart surgery for?

As it turns out, Aaron Boone has had a heart condition since he was in college. It is known as a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital defect where the valve only has two cusps to manage blood flow instead of three.

The doctors told him there was no reason why he couldn't play baseball, and that they would monitor his condition, and that's what they've been doing for the past nineteen years.

It was the Houston Astros trainers and team doctor that discovered the acceleration in his condition. Boone announced yesterday that he won't be playing this season, and will be scheduling his surgery soon, even though there is no huge rush for it.

The condition usually causes no problems, but later in life the valve can become calcified, which can lead to aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation. Some patients end up needing valve replacements in the third or fourth decade of their lives.

Due to the fact that the aorta is different in patients with bicuspid aortic valve, there is a higher risk of aortic dissection, and the formation of aneurysms. The condition of the aorta is actually what ends up determining the type of surgery the patients end up getting.

Here's a relatively young guy, who a few years ago went from being somewhat of an unknown guy in baseball to one of the most recognizable players in the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry. And now he needs heart surgery. 

It just makes you think about what's really important in life.

Most Red Sox fans hate the mention of Aaron Boone, along with Bucky Dent, and Bill Buckner. Those are players that ruined their chance at possible World Series glory and helped keep them in an 84-year championship drought.

However, last night I saw something that really said it all.

I was reading the articles on Boone to try and get a handle on what was going on, and there were posts attached to the article mostly wishing Boone well with his impending surgery. There was a post from a Red Sox fan, and I was expecting the usual hatred toward Boone. But that's not what I got. 

He said that said when he thinks of Aaron Boone he thinks of a guy that ruined his World Series dreams, but somehow none of that seems to matter anymore. He said he wished Aaron well and that his thoughts and prayers would be with him and his family because life is more important than baseball.

That guy couldn't have been more right. I love baseball, and I love the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this situation just goes to show you that someone's health trumps any kind of rivalry.

Boone's prognosis is good, and hopefully he can play baseball again, but in a world where making money and fame are so high on many people's lists of priorities, it's nice to see that Aaron Boone has his straight.