Kevin Jordan returns after transplant

Updated: September 28, 2011, 4:07 AM ET
Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Kevin Jordan was late to Wake Forest's first baseball practice. So after jogging out of the clubhouse, he immediately plopped onto the ground and joined his teammates in a pre-workout stretch.

Finally back on the field -- with a new kidney from his coach -- Jordan practiced with his teammates Tuesday for the first time since the operation. He had no trouble fitting right in.

"This was the best day of my coaching career -- by far," said coach Tom Walter, who donated a kidney last year to his freshman outfielder. "Just to see him back out here and doing what he loves to do. This is what this has always been about."

It was the latest step in the 19-year-old's comeback from a disease that caused his kidneys to shut down. But after reaching the goal of practicing again, Jordan's ready to start on the next one.

"Right now, I'm thinking about scrimmages, and then after we do our first scrimmage, then I'll be thinking about playing against another team," Jordan said. "Goals fly by fast."

He sure didn't look like he was eight months removed from a kidney transplant. The former 19th-round pick of the New York Yankees chased fly balls, took a few cuts during batting practice and uncorked throws to the infield from his customary position in center field.

He also ran the 60-yard sprint in 6.5 seconds -- the best time of any of the Demon Deacons -- and then did it a second time, Walter said.

"And he looked like he did it pretty easy," Walter said. "His stamina is certainly not all the way there, but it shows that it's part way there."

Jordan wore a pad underneath his practice jersey to protect the right side of his abdomen. While he was cleared several months ago for all baseball-related activities -- sliding, diving, running into walls -- he hopes he won't hesitate when he does them.

"I haven't dove after a fly ball yet or dove after stealing a base quite yet, but I'm hoping when the time comes, I'll be ready," Jordan said, "and I'll probably have to practice that before."

The ordeal began for Jordan in the winter of 2010, when he had trouble shaking the flu as a high school senior in Columbus, Ga., and eventually lost 30 pounds. Doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta discovered his kidney was functioning at only 15 to 20 percent.

He was diagnosed that spring with ANCA vasculitis, a type of autoimmune swelling disorder caused by abnormal antibodies. When those abnormalities show up in the kidneys, they can cause blood and protein to leak into the urine and could result in kidney failure.

Jordan wound up on dialysis -- three days a week at first, and then daily. Family members were tested to see if any were a possible match for a transplant. None were, so Walter was tested in December and he learned a month later that he matched.

The 42-year-old coach and father of two young children said he never wavered on his decision to give up his kidney so Jordan would have a chance at a long, healthy life.

The procedure was performed in early February and Jordan spent the following months rehabilitating and waiting for the day he could return to the field.

"This is what I've been doing for the last decade or more," Jordan said, "and I don't know what to do with the free time. And I really don't know what I would do (during) the summer without baseball."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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