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Pirates say they are always prepared for any medical emergency

WWSB Tampa 2/23/2023 ABC7 Staff

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It was a scary situation at Pirate City on Tuesday night. The Pittsburgh Pirates were hosting the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was in the outfield collecting balls during batting practice when one of their guests, Ernie Withers, collapsed due to a heart attack. Pirates’ medical personnel quickly administered CPR on Withers.

Pirates Director of Sports Medicine Todd Tomczyk said it’s a situation they’re always prepared for.

“This is in our fabric as medical health professionals. This is what we’re trained to do. When an event such as this occurs, we rely on our instincts, we rely on our training, and we’re called to act,” said Tomczyk.

Tomczyk credits the entire medical team from the Pirates, the team physician, EMTs, and Manatee Memorial Hospital for their quick action to save Mr. Withers.

Jacki Dezelski attended the practice along with her friends from the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. They had only been there for about ten minutes when her good friend Ernie Withers suffered the heart attack.

She said as the staff worked on Withers, the hustle and bustle of the field went silent.

“You could’ve heard a pin drop. Players, guests, and fans that were there to enjoy a day of watching spring training practice dropped to their knees. Many folks were praying, not knowing who it was, but knowing someone was suffering what may have been a life-threatening situation,” said Dezelski.

She recounts the horror but said if it had to happen, she’s glad it happened at Pirate City.

“To be in that place at that time with the medical team from the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately springing into action is the absolute best miracle you could hope for,” she said.

Withers is recovering at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

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