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Published: Sunday, 7/23/2006

Hessman's father on road to recovery

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Mud Hens third baseman Mike Hessman received a terrible scare at the end of last month when he got a call that his father was fighting for his life after an ATV accident.

Three weeks later, Hessman's father, Fred, is on the long road to recovery.

On June 30, Fred Hessman and his brother were exploring terrain in a resort area in Mexico near where his brother is building a house when Hessman fell off a cliff. It's not totally clear how it happened, but it's possible his bike malfunctioned.

Hessman had massive injuries: broken neck, lower back, knees, left shoulder and right leg. He took a seven-hour ambulance ride to La Paz, Mexico, and was airlifted to San Diego, where he underwent 13 1/2 hours of surgery.

Mike Hessman joined his father two days later. He said manager Larry Parrish and the rest of the staff were supportive.

"LP was unbelievable, as far as the support, being able to talk to him about what was going on," Hessman said. "He told me to do what I thought I needed to do, supported me 100 percent. The whole staff told me to take as much time as I needed."

Hessman's 56-year-old father is paralyzed from the waist down, but was moved to a rehabilitation center in Fullerton, Calif., near where his family lives, to work on gaining his strength back.

"He's doing really well with it, his spirits are up," Hessman said. "The doctor looked straight at me and said, 'That's a strong man.' "

Hessman kept up with the team while he was gone and rejoined the Hens the day after the All-Star break. It's hard for him to be away from his father, but he gets daily updates from his mother.

"We're lucky he's still here with us," Hessman said.

SANTIAGO ARRIVES: Ramon Santiago arrived in Toledo yesterday and was in the lineup at shortstop against Durham. He was optioned to the Hens Friday so the Tigers could activate Dmitri Young from the disabled list.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he expected Santiago to rejoin the club soon. Santiago said he took that to heart.

"Dmitri, he had to get back there so he can do what he can do," Santiago said. "I just have to come here and work hard. We're close here, 2 1/2 games out."

To make room for Santiago, the Hens optioned infielder Chris Maples (.206, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs) to Double-A Erie.

FINALLY: Each of the Hens' five starting pitchers has an earned-run average under 4.00. The lowest is Chad Durbin's 3.12 ERA, and the highest is last night's starter, Colby Lewis, who entered with a 3.86 ERA.



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