The Jackson Hammerheads’ faltering pennant chase took an unexpected turn today, as manager Lou Hayes was sidelined with a heart attack. Pitching coach Eddie Harris will take over managing duties on an interim basis.
“Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with Lou right now,” said Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler. “Some things are more important than a pennant race. Okay, that’s a lie. But some things are almost as important as a pennant race.”
Hayes fell ill the day after the Hammerheads suffered a crushing 16-5 defeat to the Knoxville Smokies, the team leading them in the East. As the team assembled for pregame practice this morning, Hayes lit into his team for showing a lack of intensity and making excuses for their failures. He ticked off a list of excuses given by different players, ending with, “…or a heart attack!”
“Who used ‘heart attack’?” said C Clarence Doyle.
“Me,” said Hayes just before collapsing.
Hayes was rushed to the hospital, were he was diagnosed with an arterial blockage. He is scheduled to undergo bypass surgery tomorrow, and is expected to be out of action for the remainder of the season.
“It was a shock to all of us,” said CF Damian Deason. “I mean, granted, watching our bullpen on a regular basis would be enough to kill anybody, but we definitely didn’t see this coming.”
Reached in his hospital room, Hayes said that he expects to make a full recovery. He said that the hardest part would be not getting to see him team play. “The nurses tell me they’re gonna put the TV on public broadcasting and lose the channel changer. But I have a plan for that.”
In Hayes’ absence, Harris will take the reins of the club. A former big-league pitcher and devout Christian, Harris joined the team in midseason after the incumbent pitching coach stepped down for personal reasons. While Harris has not managed to work miracles on the Hammerheads’ struggling staff, he has won the trust of Hayes. The new manager is well-regarded in the clubhouse; although he is fairly firm on club discipline, he’s not above cutting loose when the situation calls for it.
“We’re gonna come in here and win this one for Lou,” said Harris.
Hayes had a message for the interim skipper. “You gotta talk to the team,” Hayes said. “Give ‘em hell. Let ‘em know they’re too damn good to roll over and play dead.”
He did ask for one promise, though. “Don’t give ‘em one of those ‘let’s win one for Lou’ corny speeches. I couldn’t stand that.”