Leon Lee tends to forget he's getting older.
Lee, 60, a baseball standout at Grant High School in the early 1970s, played minor-league baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals organization before becoming a Japanese League star. He has been told to stop throwing batting practice at the risk of death.
Lee's medical problems began in 2011 when the stress of trying to bring Japanese baseball to spring training in Tucson, Ariz., numerous trips overseas and too much restaurant food began to affect his health.
"I started noticing my chest would start burning when I walked fairly short distances," said Lee, who still lives in Sacramento. "And, me being stubborn, I just downplayed the symptoms."
Lee's family urged him to seek medical advice. "I told them I would go and get checked out," Lee said. "Just to be sure, my son, Bryan, called my good friend Jerry Manuel, who called me and said he was coming over to take me. I said OK, 'I'm going right now.' "
Lee's wife, Pamela, drove him to the emergency room at UC Davis Medical Center. After an EKG, Lee was transferred to Sutter Memorial Hospital. A stress test didn't reveal any problems, but that wasn't good enough for his wife.
"Pamela wouldn't let them send me home until they did an angiogram," Lee said. "When they did, they found I had more than a 90 percent blockage of my large artery along with blockage to three others."
One doctor described the blood flow to Lee's heart as slow as an IV drip and surgery was needed.
"The surgeon said he was surprised I even made it to the hospital," Lee said.
Lee said the surgeon found a large tumor in the middle of his chest, which he was told explained why the stress test had not indicated a blockage. "The tumor was removed and later found to be benign," Lee said. "An artery from my leg was used for the bypass of the large artery. In all, a quadruple bypass was performed."
Following another brief health scare in February 2012, Lee kept himself in shape and was very active.
However, last month, 48 hours after throwing five hours of batting practice at his baseball complex, Lee felt discomfort in his chest.
"I was scared," Lee said. "With Pam out of state and the kids living away from home, I went to my mother's house. She called an ambulance. Ironic, isn't it? I'm 60 years old and when things get uncomfortable we all still head for mom's house."
Since Lee had been throwing so much batting practice and playing so much golf, he aggravated the area of his quadruple bypass surgery, and it became inflamed.
Now Lee, who was to be inducted into the La Salle Hall of Fame on Saturday, is preparing to open his baseball academy May 25 at the Mather Sports Complex.
"Since I've scared my family and friends three times in the last year and a half, I'm under close scrutiny, even though I'm feeling great," Lee said. "It's been an interesting and educational couple of years dealing with everything. I've become much stronger and especially appreciate family and friends that much more."
He's even considering throwing batting practice. "I don't think if I throw a little BP, that would kill me," Lee said. "However, I won't be throwing for five hours any longer."
Mark McDermott is a freelance writer specializing in Sacramento-area baseball. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.