- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Just when most people around the Baltimore Orioles had begun to pull themselves together and try to return to some sense of normalcy, the team got a scare yesterday at spring training, just two days and a couple hours after Steve Bechler died after suffering complications from heatstroke.

Paramedics again responded quickly to a call from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but they weren't needed this time. Another crisis was averted by prompt action from the Orioles' training staff.

Pitcher Jason Johnson, a type-1 diabetic, had to be treated for his dangerously low blood-sugar level after he became unstable while on one of the practice fields adjacent to the stadium. He was quickly given a sports drink and a glucose-based paste to raise his blood-sugar level, and about 20 minutes later, he walked into the clubhouse.

Johnson left the complex without comment about 75 minutes after the incident, which was not foreign for many of the Orioles. In his four years with the team, Johnson has had situations when he suffered from low blood-sugar levels, including last season's spring training, according to manager Mike Hargrove.

Still, on the day of the first full-squad workout and on the heels of the Bechler tragedy, it raised some alarm with staff and fans at the stadium, including Hargrove.

"It still scares the [heck] out of everybody," he said. "It's not unusual, but obviously it's something we don't want to have happen. … After what's happened here the last three, four days, it certainly was a scary 20 minutes."

Others, including pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, said they were not too worried when Johnson had to be attended to because the training staff reacted promptly. A member of the Orioles staff drove Johnson on a motorized cart across the main diamond from the auxiliary fields. Johnson was seen shaking while lying on the back of the cart, but quickly sat up and was given sugars by Dr. Robert Baxt, a Baltimore physician and member of the training staff.

Johnson wears a self-regulating pump to help control his levels of insulin, but he has to adjust it and eat and drink at regular intervals according to his schedule. A change in the Orioles' schedule yesterday probably accounted for Johnson's situation. Hargrove said Johnson did not adjust his program after the Orioles changed from a 9 a.m. start to noon to account for physical exams for position players.

Members of the Bechler family, including mother Pat and brother Michael, attended the Orioles' workout yesterday and actually saw Johnson get rushed to the clubhouse and receive attention from the team training staff.

Otherwise, the presence of the Bechler family provided a great deal of inspiration, some said.

"It meant a lot, it kind of got guys [pumped] up," said pitcher Matt Riley, one of Bechler's best friends.


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