National Baseball Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown found Bassett Healthcare Network’s Chief of Cardiology, Dr. Patrick McNulty, on stage with Hall of Famer Rod Carew discussing heart disease awareness and prevention. Meanwhile, cardiologists Dr. Merle Myerson and Dr. Zachary Huston provided heart health counseling to Hall of Famers and their families as part of cardiac screenings offered by Bassett Healthcare Network Saturday and Sunday. It was all part of Bassett’s participation in Heart of 29 with the American Heart Association (AHA) and Rod Carew.

The Heart of 29 campaign, so named because Carew wore jersey #29, was created by the AHA following Carew’s own experience with heart disease; he suffered a massive heart attack in September of last year, just shy of his 70th birthday. Carew had a mechanical device implanted called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which works with his damaged heart to pump the blood his body needs.

“I’ve always thought of myself as healthy,” said Carew during a news conference Hall of Fame weekend at the Clark Sports Center. “I felt like I was given a second chance to help other people and let people know it’s very important to take care of their hearts.”

McNulty spoke about the simple steps people can take to protect themselves from heart disease, which is still the country’s number one killer of men and women.

“The first thing is to know your numbers. Keep track of your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar, all of which are risk factors for coronary artery disease,” said McNulty. “You should also recognize some of the common symptoms of heart attack, which can include shortness of breath, nausea, sweating or clamminess, and pressure in the back, arms, chest or neck.”

Both Carew and McNulty also stressed the need to pay attention to diet and exercise. If you smoke, they advised, stop. Cigarette smoking greatly increases a person’s risk for coronary heart disease.

By the weekend’s end, 41 individuals received screenings including Bert and Gayle Blyleven and John and Katheryn Smoltz.

“One of the things about a career in baseball,” noted John Smoltz, “is that you get a physical every year. That’s a good thing, but you tend to think that’s enough.”  Smoltz, who was a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, said Carew’s story and his wife Kathryn’s urging convinced him to take advantage of Bassett’s cardiac screening day.

Similarly, Bert and Gayle Blyleven said they were surprised by Carew’s heart attack. Gayle, who takes a Zumba class and wears a Fitbit to track her steps, says she listened to Carew’s wife Rhonda discuss women’s risk of heart disease during a luncheon over the weekend and also decided to take Bassett up on the offer of a cardiac screening along with her husband. Bert Blyleven was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 and pitched for the Minnesota Twins.

“Unfortunately, many women don’t understand their risk for heart disease; it is the number one killer of both men and women in this country,” warned Myerson. “In fact, the National Institutes of Health tell us 1 in 4 women dies of heart disease. Yet women are often so busy caring for everyone else that they sometimes fail to make their own health a priority. So know your risk factors, talk with your health care provider to plan treatment for risk factors if needed, and try to have a heart-healthy lifestyle with exercise and diet.

Bassett Healthcare Network’s cardiac screenings in support of Heart of 29 were a hit with the Hall of Famers, so much so that several said they’ll be looking for Bassett again next year at the 2017 Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown. Learn more about the AHA’s Heart of 29 campaign at