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Arizona’s Mike Candrea says he’ll heed ‘wake-up call’ after health scare

Mike Candrea is closing in on 1,300 victories at Arizona. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

Arizona Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea was back on the job Thursday, his sense of humor intact.

“I’m on the right side of the grass,” he said with a grin. “So things are good.”

Having been told there’s nothing wrong with his heart after being hospitalized for two nights because of chest pain, Candrea was able to smile while taking seriously the stress-related symptoms and lifestyle choices that apparently led to the scare.

“Definitely, a little wake-up call,” he said.

“Sometimes when you’re grinding and you’re lacking a little sleep and not eating well and not drinking enough water … all that stuff kind of combines.

“I always talk about not taking any day for granted and living each day like it’s your last, and when you’re sitting there and you have a lot of people worried, including yourself, you wonder, ‘Have I overdone it.’ It makes you think a little bit.”

Candrea, 56, said he woke up Sunday morning with a “thick” feeling in his chest. The Wildcats were finishing up a three-game set at Arizona State with a noon game, and he said he was still “foggy” when he arrived at the stadium.

He wasn’t feeling better by the bottom of the second inning, when he alerted the trainer, who called for paramedics. Candrea was taken by ambulance to a hospital and transported later that night to Tucson’s University Medical Center.

“The one thing I wanted was to get the hell out of Tempe,” he said. “I said, ‘We’ll find a way to get to UMC. I got taken care of very well there.”

A battery of tests came back with good news, although he was told that he does have certain risk factors: His father had heart problems later in life, he is carrying a few extra pounds and his cholesterol level was elevated.

He said he’s on medication for his cholesterol and is aware of changes he needs to make.

“I just need to be careful,” he said.

“I’m Italian, so I like to eat a lot of carbs. I eat late at night, and sometimes I don’t eat. I haven’t been drinking a lot of water, so I think I got a little dehydrated. I look back and I kind of haven’t taken a day off since January.

“I just have to find some time to let it go. It’s hard. I’ve been through many of these seasons. I kind of embrace the process and get wound up with it, and you really don’t think about it while you’re doing it.”

Candrea is in his 27th season at Arizona — his 25th coaching the team, having missed the 2004 and 2008 season to coach Team USA in the Olympics. He is 1,293-285-2 with the Wildcats, leading the program to eight national titles.

He will be back in the dugout and coaching third base as the Wildcats take on Stanford for a three-game series at Hillenbrand Stadium, beginning Friday at 7 p.m.

“It’s very relieving,” junior third baseman Brigette Del Ponte said of Candrea’s return. “We all got scared when he heard it was something with his heart or chest. That’s a big deal.”

Candrea said one of the reasons he was unaware he was creating some health issues was that he has never looked at coaching as “going to work.”

“I have been blesses to be allowed to do this,” he said. “I just need to fine some time to slow down a little bit. And I will.”

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