Uecker eyes early June for booth return
Broadcster overwhelmed by outpouring of support
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker was back at Miller Park on Friday, exactly two weeks following major heart surgery. He hopes to be back on the air in another month.
That timetable would beat the original estimate -- that Uecker would miss 10 to 12 weeks of games -- but is reasonable, according to Uecker's doctors, Alfred Nicolosi and Jim Kleczka of Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital, who were alongside Uecker on Friday for the 75-year-old's first public appearance since his surgery.
Uecker underwent a six-hour procedure on April 30 to replace his aortic valve, aortic root and part of his ascending aorta, along with a coronary bypass of one vessel. His next checkup with Kleczka is in early June, and Kleczka doesn't expect Uecker to resume working home games until at least six weeks postsurgery, which would be approximately June 11. That's right in the middle of a weeklong homestand against the Cubs and Rangers.
"It could be less," Uecker said.
"Well, we'll talk about it," Kleczka quickly countered. "He's been pretty persistent about wanting to get back. But hopefully you go through this once and you're done with it. We have to let him recover right so there aren't any problems that develop. So far things have gone fantastically."
Added Nicolosi, who performed the surgery: "There are some people, you just can't hold them down, and you have to."
Uecker said that he is already walking "several miles" every day, and as soon as his incision heals, he will be cleared to get back into the pool. Before his surgery, Uecker was swimming every day, often in the resistance pool at Miller Park.
Uecker's sense of humor hasn't suffered, but after welcoming reporters to "another session of Hearts Anonymous," he got serious for a moment and thanked fans from around the world for their outpouring of support. He also praised Nicolosi and Kleczka for the "unbelievable care" he received at Froedtert.
"I don't want to go through it again, but they made it as easy and as pleasant [as possible]," Uecker said. "Hopefully, I'll be back in the booth before too long, which is what I really want to do."
But soon enough his funny bone took over again.
"I feel good," said Uecker. "I started driving in my garage -- just to get the feel for it again. But I feel really good."
He said there was one loose end from surgery: "I'm trying to get Topps to pay for it."
A Brewers spokesperson said this week that Uecker's on-air partner, Cory Provus, will continue calling games in Uecker's absence, with Fox Sports Wisconsin's Davey Nelson providing color analysis.
Provus had been in touch with Uecker since the day after the surgery. Friday was Provus' first opportunity to see his booth-mate in person.
"He looks incredible. Unbelievable," Provus said. "He sounds good. He looks good. He put on a brave face through this whole thing, but all of us were scared. This is an unbelievable man.
"I know his doctors gave him a timetable, but I think he's going to be back sooner than people think. This is part of him. Being back at the ballpark is going to be part of his therapy."
Uecker said he has been there, in a way. He's watched and listened to Brewers games the whole time he's been in recovery and said that he's not particularly happy about how the team's been playing, but is nowhere near giving up hope that they can turn it around.
"I will do my best to resume a full schedule as quickly as I can, depending on what they tell me," he said. "I know there's still a lot that can happen. I'm not antsy. I want to be there. ... I'm involved in the game. I don't like it when we lose. I get over it. But I'm not happy when we lose, whether I'm there or not."
As for the rest of his career, Uecker said that he's not ready to quit anytime soon but would not try to stay on the job longer than he thought necessary.
"I'm asked that a lot of times, about cutting back a little bit," he said. "I'll know when it's time for me to cut back. I will. I'm not hanging around here to win any medals or anything. It's all I know how to do. Nobody's going to have to tell me when it's time to pack it in. I'll know."
The beloved Milwaukee icon known as "Ueck" wrapped up a 20-minute news conference with a sentiment that a lot of his fans can agree with after seeing him back in good health and good spirits.
"When you get to a certain point in your life," he said, "every day is a blessing."