PEORIA, Ariz. — A San Diego Padres fan is fulfilling a lifelong dream.
"I'm just super happy to be here. It's the best-ever. Opening day!", Ken Flannell said on opening day of Padres Fantasy Camp.
"It's dream like I mean, this clubhouse for one thing. It's like being in a fancy country club. To be able to get instruction from guys that I watched play on TV, back in the day and even recently. And how cool and giving and open they are. It's a dream," Flannell said talking about the former Padre players who act as coaches during the camp.
Flannell's dream experience almost didn't happened.
In April 2021, he was diagnosed with what they call a mitral valve regurgitation, which is a leaky valve in the heart.
Flannell elected to become the first person in the western United States to undergo a state of the art procedure.
Prior to surgery, his heart was four times its normal size. The surgery did its job as his heart shrunk back to it's normal size, but eventually his heart shrunk too much.
In Oct. 2022, his doctor said he needed to do another surgery. But Flannell had a concern.
"I said, you know I signed up for a baseball camp in January. Is there a way to postpone the surgery after camp. The doctor just got a huge smile and he beamed and said, 'I can move you up in the schedule and we'll get you to baseball camp.' So he did it," Flannell said.
While surgery was a success. It went eight hours, three hours longer than anticipated, leaving Flannell's wife a nervous wreck in the waiting room as she received no updates.
Four hours after surgery, Flannell started to wake up,
"I started coming to come out of anesthesia and they took the breathing tube out. The first thing I said was not 'where's my dedicated wife', it was '68 days to baseball camp!," Flannell said.
In his ten weeks of recovery before camp, he had doubts if he would make it. But he persevered and is now enjoying the five-day camp.
Flannell won a coach's award during the camp, handed out by former Padres catcher Nick Hundley.
Flannell says he will cherish his experience the rest of his life.
"I've always felt like you only get so many days in your life that you remember forever, especially the positive ones. So I felt like this is going to be five or six of those," Flannell said.
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