- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Yesterday morning's spring training workout began shortly after 9 a.m. under partly cloudy skies in South Florida for the first time in four Baltimore Orioles workouts. In less than two hours, the day became much darker.
After getting word just after 10:30 that teammate Steve Bechler had died from multiple organ failure due to heatstroke, players despondently trudged from the clubhouse to their vehicles, nearly all of them at a loss for words.
Bechler was hospitalized Sunday after he had to stop during pitchers' running drills.
Those who could muster words said Bechler had an easygoing personality and was genuinely affable.
"If you wanted to talk to him or anything, he was real outgoing, a very easygoing guy, easy to get along with," said pitcher Sean Douglass, who pitched with Bechler last season at Class AAA Rochester.
The tragedy hurt everyone in the Orioles organization, but it especially pained those who had rose through the minor-league system with Steven Scott Bechler, including pitchers and friends Matt Riley, John Stephens, Rick Bauer and Douglass. Bechler was expected to be assigned to the Orioles' new Class AAA affiliate in Ottawa to start the season.
"He was a tough guy, a competitor," manager Mike Hargrove said. "…I didn't know him obviously as well as you would [a regular], but I knew him well enough that he liked to compete."
Bechler was married in October, and his wife, Kiley, is expecting the couple's first child in April.
"I don't know what to say right now," Douglass said. "It's tragic. Here's a kid, his wife is seven and a half months [pregnant] and he's not even going to be able to see him or her."
Douglass and other players said they had little indication from Bechler that he had significant health problems. However, a combination of circumstances appeared to lead to heatstroke, and ultimately, his death.
Temperatures hovered around 80 degrees on Sunday around noon with humidity at least 70 percent. However, because of large bushes that blocked the wind from the field, players said it became difficult to breathe and stay hydrated.
"[Bechler did the running] the day before and they said it was hotter the day before," Douglass said, "but [Sunday] was pretty humid. And I know when I got done running my shirt was soaked, so anybody with a little extra weight on, probably would have been a lot harder."
Multiple accounts from those on and around the team indicated that the 6-foot-2 Bechler came to spring training heavier than last year's listed 239 pounds.
Bechler, who was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 1998 first year player draft, had a 35-48 record in five minor-league seasons. He made three relief appearances with the Orioles late last season, the only big league action of his career.
It is uncertain whether or not today's workout will go on as scheduled at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but players have been told to report at the usual 8:45 a.m.
"We're trying to get through this," pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg said. "We have to pray for his family and pray for each other and we can take it day by day and try to get through this."
Even if it uses all methods available, the team will surely struggle to cope with Bechler's loss.
"A lot of us live in different states and we're not with our families, so when we're here at the clubhouse, this is our family," Douglass said. "We're on the road together, they're our roommates. When we're having problems at home, it's our teammates we talk to about it. To a lot of these guys, we're like family members."

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