By Dave Dyer
---- — Ed Kuegel is back on the diamond, helping coach two baseball teams and serving as one of the better umpires in the Merrimack Valley.
Kuegel, 50, is as close to being a Mr. Baseball in Salem, N.H., as you’re going to find. In addition to his coaching and umpiring duties, he assigns umpires for all games played in Salem and is heavily involved in the many tournaments that take place there.
In Salem baseball, he’d be a tough guy to replace but, at about 7:31 p.m. on April 29, he was struck by an apparent heart attack which put all of his contributions in jeopardy.
As a coach for the AAU 13-year-old Team New England squad, which includes his son Riley, Kuegel was suddenly in pain as he began practice.
“They said it was more a blockage than a heart attack, but I had all the symptoms of a heart attack,” said Kuegel. “There are four symptoms — nausea, sweats, pain in the arm and pressure in the chest — and they were all there for me in 30 seconds.
“I knew it was bad. And I was scared to death.”
Thankfully, quick thinking by assistant coach Bryan Kerman and— once he got to Holy Family Hospital — immediate emergency treatment stabilized Kuegel.
Then, in less time than it takes the Red Sox to play three innings, a team of cardiologists performed surgery, clearing the blockage to his heart and entering a stint to help prevent a recurrence.
“I can’t say enough about how great everyone was at the hospital,” said Kuegel. “I don’t know what would have happened, if I’d even be here, if I had gotten there any later.”
By the next morning, after surgery, Kuegel was already feeling better, but he had some questions for his cardiologist.
“My third question was ‘Will I be able to umpire again?’, “ said Kuegel. “The night before I was wondering if it’d be possible.
“He laughed and said, yes, after six weeks recovery time, if I went into it gradually.”
That put a smile on Kuegel’s face and gave him some incentive as he began more than a month of rather boring recovery at home, taking new medicines, resting and — with walking his main activity — gradually building up his strength.
Finally, the six weeks were up and he went to Amesbury to work the plate for a two-man Babe Ruth League game.
“It was literally the last day of the sixth week,” said Kuegel. “I was chomping at the bit to get out there, but I was also very nervous about it.
“I was thinking of bringing my wife (Lori) to the game in case something happened. But I decided against it and besides getting a little tired, everything went fine.
“Once I got through that first game, I felt my recovery was complete and I was really happy I had no problems.”
Now, other than taking five different medications perhaps for the rest of his life and periodic checkups, Kuegel is pretty much back to where he started, both with his coaching and — thank goodness — umpiring.
“I like coaching my son, and I like coaching, but I like umpiring more,” said Kuegel. “I like being involved with the kids and there’s something about being out there that I love.”
Whatever the preference, there are just a lot of people in Salem that are happy that Kuegel is back.