Baseball hall-of-famer's heart transplant beats with inspiration

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. -- When pro football player Konrad Reuland was hospitalized with a brain aneurysm last November, he took it as a sign. He texted his mom from the hospital, “God has something big in store for me. I can’t wait to see where His will takes me.” 

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Mary and Ralf Reuland

CBS News

But a few hours later, the aneurysm ruptured.

His parents, Mary and Ralf, raced to his side.

“I had my right ear on his chest and talked to him and laid in bed all day and listened to his heartbeat all day long,” Mary said.

But her son was brain-dead at 29. If this was God’s plan, it sure felt like an awful one.

“And then when we left I said, ‘Whoever gets his heart, better deserve it,’” Mary said.

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Konrad Reuland

Reuland family

One year earlier, “I had a massive heart attack. The one paramedic, he had the paddles in his hand -- ‘Come on we’re losing him!’” said Rod Carew. “And then, I was gone.”

Even if you’re barely a baseball fan you know the name.

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Rod Carew

CBS News

Long before that massive heart attack landed him on the transplant list, the hall-of-famer played for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels. Along the way he earned a reputation for being great with kids, including one wide-eyed boy named Konrad Reuland.

“He gets in the car, big eyes and everything -- he’s about 11, maybe 12 -- and he’s saying, ‘Mom, mommy, I met Rod Carew today! You know, he’s a pro athlete. I want to be a pro athlete.’ And the rest of the day that’s all he talked about was meeting Rod Carew,” Mary recalled.

They only met that once, but these two professional athletes are now inseparable. Because a few months before he died, Konrad checked the organ donor box on his driver’s license application, and by sheer coincidence, the man who received his heart was none other than Rod Carew.

The two families got together recently at the Reuland’s house in Orange County, California.

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The Reulands and Carews meet

American Heart Association

“I’m going to ask mom to listen to his heart and tell me how beautiful it sounds,” Rod said.

“That was really cathartic for me to be able to hear it again,” Mary said.

Every heartbeat is unique -- and she said this one was unquestionably Konrad’s. “I’ve got it memorized,” she said.

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Mary listens to Konrad’s heart beating in Rod’s chest

CBS News

The two families are now planning to team up to use Rod and Konrad’s celebrity to promote the American Heart Association and to encourage many more people to become organ donors.

“Whatever, if we can save a life -- and that means including Konrad now, you know, wherever I go, he’s going to be there,” Rod said.

When Konrad sent his mom that text, saying he felt like God still had a plan for him, he obviously thought he would go on living. And now we know he will.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com. 

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.