Las Vegas 51s pitching coach Frank Viola talks about coming back from heart surgery, coaching at Triple-A level

After a two-month recovery that changed his life, the former Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion made his Las Vegas debut earlier this month with a new perspective.
by Jacob Unruh Published: June 15, 2014
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Frank Viola had the wake-up call in March, learning he had to have open-heart surgery immediately after his preseason physical.

Now, the former Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion feels grateful to be feeling well, and it’s an added bonus he’s back on the baseball field with the Las Vegas 51s as the pitching coach.

After a two-month recovery that changed his life, he made his Las Vegas debut earlier this month with a new perspective.

Viola talked with The Oklahoman Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark before the 51s faced the Oklahoma City RedHawks about his health, being a pitching coach and Father’s Day.

Q: How are you feeling?

A: “Great. It’s a hell of a wakeup call, but it was caught in time, they took care of it and I’ve changed a bunch of things in my life. I let myself get away, but I’ve lost 30 pounds since the surgery. I have to eat differently, but it’s given me a second chance of living, I’ve got so much more to give and I’m glad for the opportunity.

What kind of influence did your wife have on your recovery?

“She’s been very helpful. She had been trying to do that for years, I just never listened. It gave her an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I told you so.’ She’s been absolutely fantastic. After the surgery she started preparing healthy foods for me and it got me in the habit of knowing what was healthy and what was not, and I’ve been able to maintain. Without her, there’s no question I wouldn’t be where I am now and feeling as good as I feel now.”

What have these few weeks been like since you joined the team?

“It’s nice to be back after what I went through. The Mets were nice enough to give me plenty of time to recuperate and recover. I’ve been excited since the surgery was successful and looking forward to getting back here and doing my job, and it’s great being back on the baseball field so I’m very appreciate of that.

You’re coaching in Triple-A after spending a few years in Class A. What are the differences?

“It’s not so much teaching anymore like it was at the lower levels. This is more preparing, I would have to say. A lot of these guys have been in the big leagues, some of these guys are on their way up to the big leagues, some of these guys are holding on to get a chance to get back to the big leagues. Whatever the case may be, you still have to work with them, you still have to fine tune some things, but more than anything I think it’s the mental part with these guys.

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by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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