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(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)
Two months after heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Willmar's Austin Adamson bunts his way on base during the first inning in Game 1 of the District 7 tournament final Saturday against Litchfield.
(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton) Two months after heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Willmar's Austin Adamson bunts his way on base during the first inning in Game 1 of the District 7 tournament final Saturday against Litchfield.

Adamson doesn't slow down after heart operation

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sports Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Post 167 has three players on this year's state-bound team that played in the 2009 American Legion Division I Baseball Tournament.

Austin Adamson, who is one of those, quickly recalls the first game.

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"Jordan Smith had a walk-off hit to beat Hopkins," he said over the phone on Wednesday. "It scored Logan Birkland, who had walked. I was on base, I'd walked, too, moving Logan to second. They didn't want to walk Jordan because that would load the bases with the winning run on third."

Hopkins was rated No. 1 in the ranks of Minnesota American Legion baseball at the Division I level. Hopkins came out of District 10, which is the Metro's western suburbs.

This time Willmar meets another top seed out of the same district.

Like Willmar, No. 11 Osseo lost its first game and then won four straight to gain the top seed out of the three qualifying teams from District 10.

Eden Prairie went 4-0 in the district, but they advance with the automatic bid since the Eden Prairie post is hosting the 16-team, four-day event.

Willmar got enough votes in the state poll to be ranked 20th. Willmar plays Osseo at 10 a.m. Friday in Edina. Win or lose, Post 167 plays a second game later Friday against either No. 2 Eastview Thunder or No. 15 Minneapolis Southwest.

Andrew Bangen and Derrick Loiselle were also on the '09 team, which then lost to Apple Valley and Grand Rapids. All three have ended their first year at college, Bangen at the University of Minnesota and Loiselle at Mankato State.

Adamson had a rather eventful year at Northwestern College in Roseville. He played second base for the Eagles, starting 21 of 39 games and hitting .230 with eight RBI.

When he went for his pre-college physical last August, Dr. Dennis Peterson at Family Practice detected something unusual listening to his heart.

"He told me there was a 'whooshing sound,' " said Austin. "He suggested an EKG."

Austin wasn't too concerned. Both his parents, Wade, the Legion baseball coach, and Lisa, had heart murmurs. Besides, he had no symptoms suggesting anything serious was wrong.

The EKG found a hole in the upper chamber wall dividing the left and right atrium. Blood was swishing back and forth between the chambers mixing refreshed with old blood on its way to the lungs

At the Minneapolis Heart Hospital, part of Abbott-Northwestern, an attempt was made to repair the defect with a catheter. Lisa told me the surgeon found the hole too large to fix in this manner.

The opening was described to her as being "As big as an Oreo cookie."

It was suggested that Austin should think about open-heart surgery at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital.

Through her work as a sales person specializing in the Lifevest, a wearable defibrillator, for the Zoll Medical Corp., Lisa talked with a nurse about her son's condition. She was told about Dr. Harold M. Burkhart at the Mayo Clinic. He was closing such abnormalities using a minimally invasive technique. Austin might be a candidate.

On May 24, after the Eagles' baseball season had ended, the Adamsons drove to Rochester. The next day Dr. Burkhart operated.

A small incision was made between his ribs for the surgeon's tools. The heart was stopped and his blood diverted through a heart-lung machine.

Austin was in ICU only a few hours. He was at home in three days, instead of the weeks sometimes needed following open-heart which involves splitting the breastbone.

Lisa called her son's rapid recovery "amazing." Full of appreciation, she called the care her son received at Mayo "fantastic."

Austin was directed to do nothing more strenuous than walking to the bathroom the first week. The second week he resumed light activity followed by a third week of taking it easy. Early in July he was cleared to play baseball again.

He played his first Legion game July 7, six weeks post-surgery.

Lisa said Mayo is looking at Austin's fast-track return as a prime example of what's possible with the non-invasive procedure. "They've talked to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, but if nothing is done they'll at least put his story on the Mayo website," said Lisa.

Austin said that he doesn't tire so easily since the surgery.

Of course, he's looking forward to the tournament.

"This is top of the line competition," he said. "These are the best teams in the state, at least the best right now."

Willmar won the District 7 Tournament by going 4-0 in the loser's bracket. Four different pitchers threw a nine-inning complete game and a fifth went eight innings. Hitting has seldom been the problem; more often it's been defense.

"We definitely want to give Osseo a run for the money and the other teams, too," said Austin.

After what he's been through, he appreciates more than ever the chance to play the game.

"When one doctor told me my baseball days were probably over, that scared the pants off me. I'm definitely not taking anything for granted. I hate to lose, but I'm going to enjoy every moment, win or lose."

Run the Bighorns

Twenty-six 7-12 graders were in Wyoming last week preparing for the Cardinals upcoming cross country season. Head coach Jerry Popp led the trek to the Bighorn Mountains.

The troupe stayed in Buffalo and then ran on the mountain roads during the day. Teams from Sartell and Dickinson, N.D., joined them.

On the final day the Cardinals ran 11 miles at 9,000 feet elevation. Total miles for the stay were 70 for the boys and 60 for the girls.

This was the 20th year the former coach at Bowman, N.D., has taken a group of runners to the Bighorns, the past seven years at Willmar.

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West Central Tribune (320) 235-6769 customer support

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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