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'It's Like A Nightmare': Miami Native and MLB Hall of Famer Andre Dawson Deals With Coronavirus As A Mortician

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – From the major leagues to the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, former big league star Andre "The Hawk" Dawson is now in a different field. While he serves as a special assistant to the Chicago Cubs, he is also a mortician and helping South Floridians through their most difficult time.

Dawson owns a well-known funeral home in Richmond Heights, a Miami-Dade community full of tradition and history.

The homegrown baseball hero, who slugged his way into the Hall of Fame, is now in a world far removed from his previous life.

"As an athlete, you are kind of used to the crowd roaring and cheers and this is completely the opposite," he told CBS4's Jim Berry.

Andre Dawson Funeral  Home
Andre Dawson talks to CBS4's Jim Berry outside his funeral home. (CBS4)

A year ago, Dawson was just a passive investor at the Paradise Memorial Funeral Home, but when the business fell into his lap, he and his family took it on. Little he did know that months later, his industry would be coping with a global pandemic.

"It's like a nightmare, and the sad thing is you can't be too careful."

His wife of 42 years, Vanessa, is the office manager, while his uncle runs the day to day operation. The staff totals 23, and they're wearing masks and going through a lot of hand sanitizer.

South Florida has not been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases like New York, but Dawson says its effects here are still hugely challenging. Uncertainties about the virus lingering in those who have died has his staff taking extra precautions.

Social distancing and limiting services to ten people can take a heavy emotional toll.

Andre Dawson
Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson puts an arrangement of flowers on a casket at Paradise Memorial Funeral Home, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

"The sad emotional side of me comes out a lot especially if its someone that you know, but trust me I do have a lot of moments but at the end of the day after doing two or three services you are pretty beat up," he explained.

When Dawson's former baseball buddies heard about his new endeavor, they were stunned.

"I got a lot funny stares. Jim Rice looked at me and said 'You're doing what?' I got a similar stare from Rickey Henderson. It's funny, the first thing I throw back at them is 'Here, I have a business card for you," he said laughing.

It has been an adjustment. But the once mighty slugger is learning how to make a difference in a different way.

"All I want to do at this point is continue to serve and if I can be confident in that regard that this is all worth it."

Dawson's calm demeanor serves him well at his funeral home.

The Miami native ended his 21-year major league career in 1996. He was an eight-time All-Star despite knee injuries that have led to more than a dozen operations. He's best remembered for his 49-homer season with the Chicago Cubs in 1987, when he was voted the National League Most Valuable Player.

Dawson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

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