York Revolution infielder Joe Thurston has 184 games of big league experience under his belt.
Some came as the proverbial cups of coffee in the big leagues from 2002 to 2008, until he played a full season for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009.
Outside of four games with the Class AA Reading Phillies in 2007, Thurston has played at the Class AAA level or higher since 2002. He's made several minor league all-star teams. And he's gathered more than 1,600 hits in the minors.
All of those accomplishments are impressive by themselves. For Thurston, they're a little more valuable, especially considering a defect in his heart nearly kept him from playing the game he loves.
Heart surgery: Thurston first felt
"I jumped up to catch the ball and my heart started beating real fast," he said. "So then I go to my house and I'm like 'Mom, my heart is beating real fast. I don't know what's going on.' She said 'Take a nap.' So, I figured I was playing too hard. I don't really remember it again until junior high."
A couple years after a doctor incorrectly diagnosed Thurston with asthma when he was in junior high, another doctor visit revealed Thurston indeed had something wrong with his heart.
"Basically there was an extra something in my heart. Whatever it was, it would cause my heart to beat real fast. If I would do a certain movement or jump up or whatever, my heart would just beat super fast," he said.
Thurston doesn't remember the exact pronunciation of the condition. And rightly so, the correct term is paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.
"One time they recorded it (my heart rate), they had it at 250 beats (per minute). So, if you did sprints or whatever, 180 would be normal. If I would have been at 300 per minute, my heart would have burst," Thurston said.
The eventual solution for Thurston was surgery in his senior year of high school.
"They just went through my neck and my groin. They went through with a little camera," he said.
Giving back: The 32-year-old Thurston said he still has a lot left in the tank. But he has thought about what he might do when his playing days are over.
Based on the interaction he's had with players over his 14-year pro career, he's come to the conclusion that coaching might be in his future.
"Even if I'm not going up to them first, I feel like people come up to me ... younger guys will ask me questions about stuff. I don't know why," he said. "I feel like that's kind of showing me, getting me prepared for the next step."
Thurston has had plenty of talented players and coaches to learn from, too, including one of his popular cousins who goes by the name of C.C. Sabathia (and for what it's worth, NBA swingman Josh Childress is his cousin, too). He and Sabathia played together at Vallejo (Calif.) High School in the late 1990s but have yet to face each other in the pros.
Versatility: Thurston signed with York on July 22 after sitting out the last couple months since the Minnesota Twins released him from Class AAA Rochester in mid-May.
He is batting .346 (9-for-26) in the six games he's played for York thus far. He hit his first homer in a Revs' uniform on Tuesday night. He's also provided valuable depth to the infield by playing multiple positions.
"I can hit for average. I do the little things right. Try to sacrifice. I'm that type of player," he said. "That's the type of player that survives in the game."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.