SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - It has been years now since Mike Matheny experienced the foggy, frightening concussion symptoms that caused him to miss his exit, forget things, lose focus — and, ultimately, forced the four-time Gold Glove catcher to retire from the game he had played since childhood.
Oddly enough, with the rookie manager's St. Louis Cardinals facing his former San Francisco franchise in the NL championship series, Matheny credits the Giants for protecting him back then.
"I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that," Matheny said before Game 2 on Monday night. "That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen. And I've been able to spend some time talking with some people and some doctors, people that are making a difference with this now."
"And hopefully some parents and some people that are organizing, especially sports on the youth level, are paying closer attention and being smart with these kids," he said.
Concussions are much more closely monitored in most spots these days, though Matheny always felt the Giants did everything to find the most current experts and studies.
The 42-year-old Matheny played his last full season in 2005, his first year with San Francisco. He had a .239 career batting average with 67 home runs and 443 RBIs in 1,305 games for Milwaukee (1994-98), Toronto (1999), St. Louis (2000-04) and the Giants (2005-06).
He began the 2006 with the Giants, but didn't play again after May 31 following a series of foul tips he took in the mask. Doctors warned him that he was more susceptible to even further damage if he received another blow.
Matheny said it took 18 months for him to get back to normal. He also wasn't allowed to get his heart rate above 120, which is a relatively low level when it comes to the exertion levels for an athlete. Most pregnant women, for instance, are encouraged not to exceed 140.
On Monday, Matheny worked out so hard he got his heart rate to 160. He thanked Giants general manager Brian Sabean and former athletic trainer Stan Conte — now with the Dodgers — for stepping in when they did at a time when concussions were not always on the forefront.
He might not be managing now otherwise.
"They were very proactive in trying to find somebody that could look into this a little deeper," Matheny said. "Very grateful for that. But it is a heightened awareness, I believe not just in our sport but all across the board. And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. And the word concussion, (the) term concussion, I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. Not necessarily a severe brain injury, but can lead to it if not looked at seriously."