MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Baseball has always been Ron Santo's life. Now, it is his therapy, too.
Two months after his right leg was amputated below the knee due to diabetes, the former third baseman for the Chicago Cubs is starting over.
He soon will have a state-of-the-art prosthesis and will go about trying to live as normal a life as possible, starting first with learning to walk.
"Everybody had said to me that they think I'm one of the strongest guys around. But believe me, if it happened to anybody, you do what you have to do. You fight." -- Ron Santo, Former Chicago Cub on fighting diabetes
The nine-time All-Star plans to resume his broadcasting career with the Cubs, get back on the golf course and even ride his horse again.
"What I went through, eight operations in 10 weeks, I can't explain it. You had to be there," said Santo, 61, as he visited the Cubs' spring training camp.
He drove himself to the facility in a vehicle with controls on the steering column and then got around with surprising ease with the aid of a walker.
Players, coaches and team officials cracked jokes and slapped him on the back, lifting the spirits of a man who is already known for his upbeat personality.
"I never said, 'Why me?' I believe in God and I was wondering, 'When is this going to work?' 'Why can't this heal?' I started to lose faith," Santo said.
"The end result is that what I found out (is) there are more people aware of diabetes since this has happened to me."
Santo spent 14 of his 15 major league seasons with the Cubs and had 342 career homers while winning five gold gloves. His popularity has continued since he became a team broadcaster in 1990.
The e-mails have poured in by the thousands and so have the cards and letters, many of which contain contributions to fight diabetes, a disease Santo was diagnosed with at age 18.
"When you are sitting there and having a bad day and you read these cards and letters, it just picks you up," Santo said.
"Every one of these letters, whatever they say, it's like they know you, like they've been there. I didn't look at myself at this level with the fans."
Santo's family kept him going during the tough days since last summer when he discovered a small ulcer-like sore on his foot that would eventually cost him his leg.
"My family was my biggest inspiration, they just kept me fighting," said Santo, whose 2-year-old grandson is the center of his life.
"What worried me more than anything else was that two years ago I had open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass. Every time I went in for an operation, I was worried that my heart was going to give," Santo said.
And finally in November after one of his many operations, his heart did stop.
"I was looking at the ceiling and I knew my heart was going to stop," Santo said.
A nurse jumped on him and began screaming: "Don't leave me Ron, stay with me," Santo recalls. "She kept me with her and then she yelled 'Code Blue' and there were 10 people in that room."
Minutes later, he said, another person in the room yelled: "He's flat,' and 'Boom' -- they hit me," Santo said.
"When they hit me that was the last thing I remembered. ... Then when I woke up, I remembered everything."
Santo had a defibrillator implanted to regulate his heartbeat, but there were more difficult times ahead. The following month, he would lose his leg.
His immediate goal is to be in the radio booth for the Cubs' spring training opener Feb. 28. Whether he can resume full-time duties will be determined by how he adjusts to impediments such as stairs and showers in hotel rooms.
Being around the Cubs will be the best tonic of all for Santo. Looking trim and tanned and feeling better than he has in months, he sees a much more pleasing future, despite all he's been through.
"Even though you take care of yourself, diabetes is a disease that can turn on you. Like for 40 years, I had no major problems," said Santo, who sponsors a walk every year to raise money to fight the disease.
"Everybody had said to me that they think I'm one of the strongest guys around. But believe me, if it happened to anybody, you do what you have to do. You fight."
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