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Pirates analyst Kent Tekulve recovering after heart transplant

| Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, 9:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Former Pirates closer Kent Tekulve doffs his cap after being announced during a ceremony honoring the 1979 World Series championship team before a game against the Orioles on May 21, 2014, at PNC Park.

A failing heart forced Kent Tekulve to take a sabbatical from his job as Pirates analyst on Root Sports earlier this season.

Not quite two weeks after having a life-saving heart transplant, Tekulve said he expects to be back in the booth for spring training.

“I definitely wouldn't want to miss it, if at all possible,” Tekulve said Monday night.

On Tuesday, Tekulve and his doctors are expected to release details about his condition, which reached a crisis stage last December. He went on the heart transplant waiting list in April and had the surgery Sept. 5.

Tekulve, 67, knew last year his heart was ailing. On Christmas Eve, he had a massive heart attack.

“Basically, my heart crashed,” Tekulve said. “It was done. My first Christmas present that day was the pump.”

Wearing an external pump to aid his heart function and blood flow, Tekulve attended spring training this year in Bradenton, Fla. But as his condition worsened, he was unable to work the daily grind of broadcasting games.

Former big league manager Ken Macha, a Monroeville native, replaced Tekulve on Root's game day crew.

Early on the morning of Sept. 5, Tekulve was at home preparing for the second day of a Pirates fantasy camp at PNC Park when he got a phone call saying a donor heart had been located.

A few hours later, Tekulve had the transplant at Allegheny General Hospital. He spent a week in the hospital and is recovering at home.

“I'm still in the initial stages,” Tekulve said. “Everything is going relatively smoothly. The doctors tell me is should be a fairly easy recovery, all things considered.”

As he waited for his transplant, Tekulve got plenty of encouragement from Pirates coaches and players, as well as his colleagues at Root Sports. Although several people around the team knew of his condition, they respected Tekulve's wish that the matter be kept private for as long as possible.

“I was overwhelmed by all of the support,” Tekulve said.

Tekulve is keeping tabs on the team but doesn't expect to make a cameo appearance at PNC Park if the Pirates make the playoffs.

“I would just be a distraction,” Tekulve said. “This team deserves all the focus.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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