High-drama sports moments may bring to mind the Cubs’ World Series win in 2016, or Michael Jordan’s last-second shot playing the Jazz in 1998.
It probably doesn’t bring to mind a seniors’ softball league in Lincoln, Calif.
But the league draws a crowd of fans to the bleachers, and keeps players coming back to the field for years.
Randy Dvorak’s been a centerfielder in the league for 11 years.
“Don’t tell him I said so, but he’s one of the best in the league,” Dvorak’s teammate Rick Wood said.
In this league, illnesses and injuries don’t jeopardize the dream of being called to play in the majors. But the age of the players can mean serious health concerns. The players are encouraged to do CPR training and learn how to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) that is kept by the bleachers.
On April 12, that training was called into use as Dvorak headed to center field.
“[The umpire] said, ‘Play ball,’” Dvorak said. “Basically, that’s all I remember.”
His wife, Sharon Dvorak, received a call from their neighbor that Dvorak had collapsed and was being taken to a nearby hospital.
For Sharon Dvorak, it was the worst possible news she could receive. Her husband had been diagnosed with a heart murmur about four years earlier, and his cardiologist had warned that at any time, Dvorak could experience sudden cardiac death.
That’s exactly what happened.
“I saw Randy laying down on the field, and I immediately started running toward him,” Wood, a retired firefighter, said.
Wood’s 35 years as a firefighter gave him plenty of training in CPR. But the six other teammates who ran toward Dvorak had far less experience.
“He wasn’t breathing when I got to him. He wasn’t breathing at all – it was scary as hell,” Paul Krowe said.
But this was the moment they had trained for. Jim Wyatt ran and got the AED, and after Wood, Krowe and teammate Kathie Sinor performed CPR, the teammates were able to attach the defibrillator.
Before the ambulance or emergency medical technicians arrived, Dvorak had been revived.
“[I was] yelling at Randy, ‘Don’t leave, don’t leave,’ and son of a gun, he came back. I’ll remember that forever,” Wood said.
For Sharon Dvorak, it was the day that her husband’s teammates became her family.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s really the people you love. And now I have seven more people that I love,” she said.
The team says the experience is a perfect example of why everyone should learn CPR.
“He was dead, and then he was alive. What happened in between was a matter of training, and stepping up to the plate,” Wyatt said.
The American Heart Association’s website has resources for people interested in CPR certification.