Ed Hearn learned how to handle the curves that life throws after his major league career. The reserve catcher on the 1986 world champion Mets encountered multiple health issues that put his life in a downward spiral.
It was 1992, five years after the Mets had made him the principal player in a trade to the Royals for Triple-A pitcher David Cone. The Royals had plans to start Hearn, but a shoulder problem discovered in spring training required surgery and essentially scuttled his big-league career.
Hearn moved into the financial services industry, working for New York Life in suburban Overland, Kansas, but a few weeks into the job, he developed severe fatigue, a serious form of anemia and fluid buildup.
Hearn was told that he needed a kidney transplant. The process proved to be devastasting.
“You have to go on a lot of medications to keep the body from rejecting the kidney,’’ Hearn, 55, said recently from his home in Shawnee, Kansas. “Those come with some side effects. One of the ones that got me was mood swings and depression. I went down the black hole.
“About a year and a half later, I ended up in my basement with a loaded .357. I considered quitting. I didn’t want to quit, but that’s how dark it was.’’
Hearn said envisioning the response of his wife, Patricia, a nurse, is what stopped him. “She kissed the prince and got the frog,’’ he said.
Hearn had received his kidney, the first of three transplants, from 18-year-old Army private Donald “Chip’’ Treese, who was on leave when he died in an automobile accident. That kidney lasted nine years. Living donors provided the next two, the third one 14 years ago.
The first transplant left a major impact on Hearn. In 1997, he met his donor’s family on the Oprah Winfrey show. “His mom said Chip wanted to be a police officer because he wanted to save others. I turned to her and said I want you to know that together from this point forward, Chip and I will be serving others and we will make a difference together. And we have. A far greater difference than when I was hitting baseballs or catching Dwight Gooden.’’
Hearn became an inspirational speaker, not a motivational one. “My philosophy is motivation doesn’t last,’’ he said, “but if you inspire somebody, you can inspire somebody to change. Motivation is just rah-rah stuff. I wonder if that ground ball rolled through Buckner’s legs [in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series] so Ed Hearn could get a ring on his hand so it would open doors that would allow me to be in front of people to hear what I had to say.’’
Hearn’s role model had been Gary Carter, the future Hall of Fame catcher for the Mets whose injury in August 1986 enabled Hearn to get some playing time. Hearn thought so much of Carter that his named his child, a son, Cody Carter.
Carter died on Feb. 16, 2012. He was 57.
Cody, 21, is in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Unfortunately, he’s been subject to an inordinate amount of secondary health issues,’’ Hearn said. “Everything from daily headaches to memory loss, thyroid disease and anemia. He doesn’t have a World Series ring on his hand but he has a story that he can, if he chooses, one day impact a whole lot of lives.
“When I was dealt my blows, I was 30 years old. He was 17. That’s a big difference. It hasn’t destroyed him, but it’s been a serious challenge.’’
Hearn said his son will accompany him to Citi Field when the Mets celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ’86 team on May 28 at 6:15 p.m.
Hearn embraces his second career, which, unlike the first one, seems limitless.
“Somebody said to me one time after a speech, ‘I remember the trade,’ ” referring to him being dealt to the Royals. “ ‘I once thought that you were the worst trade in Royals history, but after hearing you today, you might be the best trade in Kansas City history.’ And he wasn’t talking baseball.’’