May 26, 2004
Atlantic Sun Tournament...Day 1
10:30AM...We leave for batting practice in two hours. We are scheduled to face Gardner - Webb in the first game of this year's tournament.
But there will be another opponent for everyone to consider. It is bright and sunny today in DeLand, with a forecast temperature of 93 staring us in the face for our 3:00PM game. I can't remember many cool days in all my years playing in DeLand, particularly come tournament time. The subject of proper hydration has been paramount for us lately.
Florida Atlantic will take the field without one of its best players. It's not a sore arm, pulled hamstring, or broken bone that will keep shortstop Alex Fonseca off the field today. The culprit is dehydration.
Despite the absence of Alex from our lineup, the Florida Atlantic Baseball family is grateful just to see Fons at the hotel.
During last Saturday's first game against Mercer, Alex suffered severe cramping. At one point in the last inning, we held up the game as he tried to work out a cramp at shortstop. When the game ended, our trainer, Elaine Coetzee, directed Alex to a shady spot behind our cinder block hothouse dugout. It was about ten degrees cooler there than on the field or in the dugout. A soft breeze was blowing and it was probably the coolest place in Macon. We hoped Alex would feel better and be ready to pinch hit in the next game.
But Alex was getting worse. He vomited and began to experience cramping in his entire body. Elaine and Robert Murphy, the Mercer trainer, immediately carted Alex off to the training room. It quickly became apparent that Alex needed to be hospitalized.
During our last inning rain delay, Alex's parents returned from the hospital and informed us that Fons would remain in the hospital for a couple of days. The admitting doctor was amazed at both the extent of his condition and the rapidity of its onset.
He also said that Alex Fonseca was a lucky young man.
Sometimes the coach trainer relationship is a difficult one. The coach wants the player on the field and the trainer can really feel that pressure. The best situation is when each of the parties trusts the professional judgment of the other. But the important thing to consider is that you are dealing with the life of a young person. I have learned to trust Elaine over the past two years, and we are both grateful for the presence of Robert Murphy and his prompt attention to a scary situation.
How did an athlete in such good physical condition get into such desperate shape? Alex is a superb athlete with a hard body and about four percent body fat. That may have been part of the problem. A little fat is good.
I think the problem started on Wednesday night. It was hot and muggy during our game in Miami. We played and got home around midnight. At 11:00AM, we were practicing at our field and it was real hot. After practice we boarded our sleeper bus and drove to Macon for the Mercer series. It is an old bus and the AC isn't the greatest during the day. There are beds that enable us to spread out and sleep the trip away, or card tables for game players. Fons chose to sleep.
So, Alex slept Wednesday night, exercised, and slept another eight to ten hours, then slept through the night at the hotel. That is a lot of time where he didn't do any drinking of fluids. Friday night's game was played on a hot, muggy field, where the dugouts are sweatboxes. He had two Gatorades that night, but skipped breakfast on Saturday.
The lesson learned is that hydration is a gradual process. Our guys have been drinking water and Gatorade heavily for the last two days. They have seen first hand the effects of neglecting this part of their physical conditioning. The sight of their friend vomiting and rigid and pale last weekend is fresh in their minds.
Alex's Dad drove him here yesterday. The skinny, pale kid that stepped out of the car and into the arms of his happy teammates had lost 16 pounds! But the smile on his face spoke volumes about his joy to be back. Alex Fonseca knows he is a lucky young man.
Fons will watch today's game from the air-conditioned press box. Tomorrow he will have more blood work done to determine his chance to play this week.
We will have a tougher time today without his bat and glove in the lineup, but I think his teammates will take inspiration from what he went through, and use that to rise above his absence. KC