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Stroke sidelines SHS baseball coach

Superior High School baseball coach Don Dembroski watches from the dugout during the Spartans’ WIAA tournament game with Hudson Tuesday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. Dembroski was back in uniform for the first time since suffering a minor stroke on May 20. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Don Dembroski had only missed one game in his 20 years as head coach of the Superior High School baseball team.

He missed his second game a week ago when he suffered a mild stroke and had to spend a couple of days in the hospital.

“Not to bore people, but I felt dizzy, had some stroke symptoms, ended up going to the emergency room and ended up staying three nights,” said Dembroski prior to Tuesday’s WIAA playoff game with the Hudson Raiders. “I learned I had a stroke, and I’m very thankful where I’m at today. I’m feeling better every day and don’t have any symptoms left from it. I’m a young guy and I have a lot of years ahead of me.”

On the evening of Sunday, May 20 Dembroski was packing his duffle bag getting ready for practice the next day when he squatted down and felt dizzy.

“I kind of stumbled down on my knees and elbow,” Dembroski said. “My wife (Sharon) noticed and said ‘what’s going on.’ I said it’s ‘nothing, I’m just a little light headed.’ She then offered me a drink of water and when I grabbed it I was wobbly with that too, so she said ‘hey, something’s not right.’”

Dembroski’s speech was also slurred a bit and at one point he sat on the edge of the bed and couldn’t lift his left arm.

“It felt like it fell asleep and I could hardly move it,” Dembroski said. “Despite the loss of balance, lightheadedness, slurred speech and numbness on my left side I was in somewhat denial, but Sharon said that’s it and called 9-1-1.

“The paramedics came and checked me out and that’s what led to me going in.”

While in the hospital Dembroski’s Spartans hosted Hermantown on May 22 and had a doubleheader scheduled at New Richmond on May 24.

“I missed the Hermantown game and that was really tough,” Dembroski said. “I was getting text updates from people, but it was hard not being there. I really thought I was going to be at least in the dugout, but the doctor said I needed to stay another day in the hospital.”

When Dembroski missed his first game roughly 15 years ago, former Spartan coach Steve Olson took over and Keith Ritsche went out and threw a no-hitter.

That wasn’t to be this time around as Superior lost to Hermantown 9-4. Dembroski was released from the hospital the next day, went right to the field and sat on the bench for practice.

He then had Sharon drive him to New Richmond on Thursday, where the Spartans lost the first game 9-1 and were trailing in the second game when it got rained out.

“After we lost to Hermantown I teased the kids and said ‘do I have to have a heart attack to get you to win one,’” Dembroski said.

With Dembroski in uniform, but still letting his assistant coaches (Keith Johnson, Ryan Hendry and Jesse Samarziya) run the team, the Spartans did their best in getting Dembroski a win, but came up short with a 1-0 loss to Hudson in a WIAA Division 1 playoff game Tuesday evening at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

“I feel very fortunate to feel as good as I do right now,” Dembroski said. “I’m also fortunate my wife took charge and made me go to the hospital, I’m thankful for by colleagues at work who have helped with the classroom stuff, and I’m thankful for my assistant coaches who’ve stepped up and kept the program going like nothing’s changed.”

Dembroski had a doctor’s appointment Wednesday morning and was hoping to be cleared to return to his normal lifestyle.

During this ordeal he also learned the acronym “BEFAST,” which stands for balance, eyes, face, arms, speech and note the time.

“And I had most of those symptoms,” Dembroski said. “I’ve been told to take it easy, keep my stress level down and listen to doctor’s orders — and my wife’s orders, too.”

SPARTAN SPIN: Dembroski’s overall record with the Spartans is 208-196.