Drew Kuns had big plans for his redshirt junior year on the Bowling Green State University baseball team this spring.
Kuns, a 2009 Clay graduate and the City League Player of the Year and a first-team All-Ohio selection as a senior, wanted to have a big year for coach Danny Schmitz’s Falcons.
In the fall of 2012, however, Kuns, 22, contracted food poisoning after, he says, eating a chicken sandwich from a local fast-food chain.
“I got rid of that in about three days,” Kuns said. “I was fine for a day and I tried to continue my regular routine, and I couldn’t do it. I got dizzy and passed out. (BG) wanted me to try to play and I tried to play through it at the start of last spring (2012). I just couldn’t push my body anymore. I told them I just can’t do it, and they (coaching staff) agreed. They wanted to see if I could get back to playing shape last summer, going into this year.”
Kuns said he was originally diagnosed with vasovagal syncope, the symptoms of which include loss of consciousness, lightheadedness, nausea, ringing in the ears, and an uncomfortable feeling in the heart.
“It makes your heart race when you do stuff, and it won’t slow down,” Kuns said of his condition. “My heart was racing too much. When I stopped doing something, it slowed down too much. That’s how they figured it was POTS and not that (vasovagal syncope).”
Symptoms of POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, include fatigue, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, and headaches. Ironically, Schmitz’s son, BG assistant coach Spencer Schmitz, also has POTS.
“I’ve never heard of POTS until I got it,” Kuns said. “They thought it was another syndrome (vasovagal syncope) for the first six months. They gave me medication for it and it (dizzyness) wasn’t getting better at all. I went to a specialist and they said, ‘We’re going to treat you for POTS.’ It’s been gradually getting better and better. I think we’re on the right track.”
Kuns said he realized just two weeks prior to BG’s fall workouts that he was in no condition to play.
“I couldn’t overcome that syndrome that fast,” he said, “and I wasn’t going to try to play through it and make my body worse. It got to the point that I couldn’t play through my condition.”
Kuns had already taken a redshirt year in 2011 when, after appearing in eight games, he sat out the rest of the season with a torn muscle and three pulled tendons in his ankle. He will be a senior academically at BGSU in 2013-14 and will graduate with a degree in criminal justice.
Instead of trying to get another medical redshirt year for the 2013 spring baseball season, he chose to become an assistant coach with the Falcons instead.
“With my medical condition, I decided to go out with my senior class,” Kuns said. “It would have taken too long to get back into playing shape and have my body where it needs to be with my syndrome. They offered me to be a player-coach this year and I accepted it.”
Kuns, who made first-team All-CL in football, basketball and baseball his senior year at Clay, said it was “definitely hard” to give up his college baseball career.
“I’ve played highly competitive baseball now for 14 years of my life,” he said. “Once I got past not playing, I realized that many other doors opened up for me and that’s the new path I have to take.”
Kuns, a first baseman and left fielder, helped coach the Falcons’ infielders and was involved as a hitting coach and bullpen coach.
“I loved it,” Kuns said. “To go to the games the first part of the season was tough, knowing I wasn’t going to play. Once I got over that, I loved it. I was still a part of the game and still a part of the team. The love of the game will never go away.”
BG struggled during the regular season, going 24-29, but somehow the Falcons ended up winning the Mid-American Conference tournament to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It was the program’s first MAC title and NCAA tournament appearance since 1999.
“We got hot at the right time,” Kuns said. “We carried big momentum in. We beat Buffalo on a walk-off double in the last game of the regular season to get us in (the MAC tournament). That also took away their MAC championship. It felt great.”
The Falcons traveled to Louisville to play the host Cardinals (46-12) in the first round of the NCAA tourney. BG lost, 8-3, and then lost to Oklahoma State, 7-3, and was eliminated from the tournament.
“That was one of the best experiences of my life,” Kuns said. “In Division I baseball, it’s an honor to be the MAC champs in the tournament and go to regionals to play against some of the best kids in the nation. With the team we had, we had a chance to beat those guys. But, baseball’s a weird game and that’s how it all turned out.”
Kuns said he hopes to be on BGSU’s coaching staff again next season.
“They have not figured out what they’re going to do with me yet,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a baseball coach, but I never knew if I would have that opportunity. Now that my medical reasons came up and I was able to be a coach, it’s just a great fit and I would love to pursue this.”