OAKLAND, Calif. — Mariners manager Eric Wedge knows how close he came to never returning to the dugout.
In case he forgot, his doctors entered his hospital room, one by one, the day of his discharge last month and reminded Wedge and his wife, Kate, how fortunate he was to have avoided something terrible. Wedge will return to managing Friday for the first time in the month since he suffered a mild stroke during batting practice.
And when he does, he’ll be certain to heed his doctors’ warnings about what not to do for the rest of his life.
“They did a great job of letting Kate and I know how serious this was and how serious we have to take this,’’ Wedge said by phone from his Seattle-area home.
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The “we” part isn’t some throwaway line, because it’s Wedge’s wife who has been his guiding force the past month. She was the one making his hospital appointments, driving him to his therapy sessions and making sure he stuck to the exercise, diet and recovery regimen devised for him by specialists.
His biggest challenge will be curbing his perfectionist tendencies, which helped him become the game’s youngest manager in 2002 in Cleveland at age 34. They also were a major contributor to the stress that helped land him in the hospital at age 45.
“I’m a perfectionist by nature,’’ he said. “I expect a lot from everybody. I’m very intense. I’m an all-in type of guy. I take pride in taking care of the people around me whether it’s on the field or off the field.’’
But there are limits, he added, to how intense he can let himself get over every little detail. Instead of obsessing over every tiny thing that doesn’t go his way, he’s going to strive to keep things in their proper perspective.
“Not everything’s a 10 out of 10, you know what I mean?’’ he said. “If it’s a 2 out of 10, it’s a 2 out of 10.’’
And that applies to his outside life as well. He’s going to try to be “a better husband and a better father’’ when he can by taking pleasure in non-baseball things that happen his way.
Wedge will do this, he said, because there’s a limit to how much in-game baseball stress he can actually reduce. That part of the game isn’t going to be different and Wedge quickly added that he isn’t about to change as a manager.
“Again, the stress is going to be there,’’ he said. “But I’m not going to change what I stand for. I’m not going to change who I am. I’m still going to be the same guy managing.’’
Wedge has felt some of that stress the past month watching the Mariners struggle at times, including — yes — during that ninth-inning meltdown game in Boston when Seattle blew a 7-2 lead and lost 8-7.
He actually chuckled when the game was mentioned.
“It’s tough to watch it on TV,’’ he said. “Even tougher than being there live because you can’t do anything about it. But yeah, I’ve been staying on top of things, watching the games, talking with (interim manager) Robby (Thompson) and (general manager) Jack (Zduriencik).
“We’ve gone over things, talked about lineups and personnel. I’m pretty up to date on what’s been happening.’’
Just in case, Thompson is going to help him out a bit more than usual his first week back in the dugout.
“I’ll be in charge,’’ Wedge said. “I’ll be the manager, but I’m not fully up to speed on every little thing, so he’ll be there to help ease me back into it. But after that, yeah, Ill be managing the rest of the way.’’
And that’s something Wedge misses.
He said he was never frightened when he started getting dizzy during that batting practice a month ago. Despite attempts to right himself, Wedge just couldn’t shake the dizziness and eventually called trainer Rick Griffin over.
After being helped into the clubhouse, Wedge soon found himself being wheeled by gurney into an ambulance. He was more frustrated than frightened.
“I didn’t know what was wrong,’’ he said. “I just knew something wasn’t right. I just wanted it to be fixed.’’
Wedge laughs now at the extent of the testing he went through that night and the following day, when doctors finally told him he’d had a stroke. It was only then when it truly dawned on him how close he had come to losing everything.
And that’s why he said he’s serious about learning not to sweat the small stuff as much. About enjoying the moments he gets to spend with his family away from the ballpark, as well as his other family inside the clubhouse.
The past month away from his players and coaches made Wedge realize how much he truly misses being around the Mariners.
His wife, he added, is fully on board with his decision to return.
“She sees the progress,’’ he said. “It’s been a strong progression and I’m feeling great. Now, it’s up to me to stay that way.’’
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners