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Nightengale: As Farquhar Fights for Life, Friends Balance Hope, Heartbreak

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Danny Farquhar pitching during a game against the Royals in March in Kansas City, Photo: Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

By Bob Nightengale |

This isn’t supposed to happen, not to a professional athlete, not to one of the nicest guys and kindest souls you’ll ever want to meet, not to a 31-year-old husband with three young children.

One moment, Danny Farquhar is a major-league pitcher, walking off the mound into the Chicago White Sox dugout.

The next, he’s vomiting, collapsing, rushed by ambulance to the hospital, fighting for his life.

Farquhar suffered a brain aneurysm Friday night during the White Sox’s game against the Houston Astros. He underwent an additional complicated surgery Saturday night to relieve swelling around the brain and remained Sunday in the ICU unit at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He’s in critical, but stable condition.

“He’s a fighter, and he’s in the fight of his life right now,’’ Chicago White Sox vice president Ken Williams said.  “They had to do another surgery, cracking his skull open, and putting a clamp on it. My God.

“This certainly shows the fragility of life and how we take every day for granted. And it can change in a heartbeat. Literally.

“His wife and mother were at the game that night, and by the time they got to the clubhouse, he was already in an ambulance heading to the hospital. Can you imagine what they went through, and are still going through?’’

Farquhar will remain in the hospital and be closely monitored by neurosurgeons for at least the next three weeks. His family is by his side now, says Sohail Shahpar, Farquhar’s longtime agent and close friend, calling them shaken, but cautiously optimistic.

“You just can’t imagine this happening,’’ Shahpar said, “not to a baseball player in the middle of the game. As a baseball player, you have Tommy John surgery, guys blowing out their arms or knees. Guys taking line drives off their body or even head. But this?”

Former All-Star first baseman John Olerud once had a brain aneurysm in college at Washington State, but had a 17-year career, playing with a protective batting helmet in the field to protect his skull. Pitcher Don Black reportedly suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1948, making a full recovery but effectively ending his career.

Veteran lefty Kent Mercker suffered a cerebral hemorrhage during a 2000 game with the Anaheim Angels, but rapid medical attention prevented the bleeding on his brain from developing into an aneurysm.

Farquhar may never play baseball again, but as long as he can walk out of that hospital, be with his wife Alexandria, who was his high-school sweetheart, and watch his kids, Madison, Landon and Liam, aged from 6 years to 7 months, that’s all that matters.

“Look, I can’t speak on his career,’’ says Oakland Athletics catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Farquhar’s college teammate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, “but we’re all just hoping he can have a happy, productive life for his kids. I can’t even imagine having kids of your own and this happening. It’s just devastating.

“Thank God the trainers and medical staff were right there when it happened. That saved his life. Can you imagine if he were back in his hotel room, and this happened?’’

It was the strangest day of his life, receiving the news of Farquhar’s aneurysm via email from friends and teammates, and ending it catching Sean Manaea’s no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox, the first he has caught.

“Here’s a guy I’ve known for 11 years, and know his wife and oldest child, and wake up to the news he’s hanging on for dear life,’’ Lucroy says, “and end the day celebrating a no-hitter. It was crazy. I was just sitting by myself at my locker not knowing how I was supposed to feel.’’

Yet, everyone who knows Farquhar knows he is a fighter. He’s a 5-foot-9 bulldog who was the 309th pick in the 2008 amateur draft, made his major-league debut three years later, and has since bounced in and out of six organizations. He once was promoted and demoted seven times by the Tampa Bay Rays one summer, and saved 16 games for the Seattle Mariners in another.

A decade in this game creates connections that span the continent, some even preceding his time as a pro.

“He was always such a great athlete with a good arm and had to reinvent himself at times through his career,’’ says Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Alex Avila, who grew up playing Little League and high school baseball with Farquhar in Pembroke Pines, Fla. “He played shortstop, center field, pitched and batted leadoff for us. Really, he’s one of those kids that was really good at everything.’’

Says former Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who acquired Farquhar in the Ichiro Suzuki trade with the New York Yankees on July 23, 2012: “My God, could he hit a golf ball. Holy smokes! He was just one of those classic overachievers, and a good young man with guts and a big heart. He’s always the kind of guy everyone pulled for.

“And now to hear this.’’

In time, perhaps doctors will be able to diagnose what happened. Then again, maybe we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. All we know is that Farquhar is alive and fighting every moment.

 “I’m still in shock about it,’’ Avila says, “thinking about his wife and kids and what their family must be going through. It scares you. This is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s very smart, very witty with a great sense of humor.

“He’s just such a very, very nice guy almost to the point that it’s hard to imagine something like this happening to someone like Danny, with such a good heart.’’

The White Sox say he’ll be in their hearts and prayers and will think of him every time they step onto the field. They hung his jersey up in the bullpen, and many have written his number, 43, and initials on the side of their baseball caps. The prayers will continue, they say, until he walks out of the hospital, and they can see that goofy smile again.

Farquhar’s former teammates remember him making a silly face on photo day years ago, only for it to wind up as the picture used for his baseball cards. The White Sox teammates laugh at his frustration this past year trying to figure out how to use Instagram. And everyone has marveled at him talk about his family, bringing them on as many trips as possible, and spending his off-day in Manhattan two years ago at the American Girl store buying dolls for Madison.

“He’s been on so many teams you’d think that Danny would have trouble with somebody,’’’ Shahpar said, “but everyone loves him. He’s that guy everyone likes to be around. It’s not that he’s the life of a party, or has this big personality, he’s just the type of person that’s like family. A genuinely good guy.

“It’s unfortunate that life doesn’t pick and choose who this can happen to based on what kind of person you are.’’

The White Sox clubhouse has been quiet since Farquhar was carried off on a gurney from the dugout. White Sox manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper still are emotional trying to describe what they witnessed.

“You want their pitching and baseball lives to be wonderful,’’ Cooper said. “I know this. He’s alive. He’s got a chance. That’s what I’m hanging onto.

“And prayers are more necessary than talk.’’

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.

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