‘Miracle’: Whitecaps’ Rivera helps save man with heart failure

West Michigan Whitecaps

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHP, Mich. (WOOD) — Timing is everything in baseball.

When a batter connects just right with a pitch — games can be won and lost.

West Michigan Whitecaps fans have seen timing and teamwork win championships. Fan of the team know when Rey Rivera steps up to the plate, there is a good chance they will be treated to a home run.

In late June, the power slugger made a play outside the walls of LMCU ballpark, in the parking lot where many of his home run balls end up.

“All I remember is nothing,” recalls Paul Lau.

Not as well-known as the players but always ready to play, Whitecaps fans might recognize Parking Director Paul Lau.

“When you go to a Whitecaps game, and you come in off West River Drive, you see a guy in a white pith helmet telling you which direction to go to. That’s been Paul for almost 20 years,” said Lau’s wife, Irene Lau.

June 24 was the beginning of a record-setting rainy stretch in West Michigan this summer. That’s why the Whitecaps game against the Dayton Dragons was called off.

Everyone from the concession workers to the players and Lau were cleaning up and heading home.

“As I’m going in he seems like he’s going in to grab a cone, or that’s what I think, and replace a cone or move it. When he’s about to do that, he gets about two steps and he just goes straight back,” said Whitecaps first baseman Rivera.

“I had instant heart failure and fell over backwards and everybody else took over from then,” said Lau.

Lau is now working on his rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed. He and his wife Irene Lau know his progress today is only possible because of the people who were in that parking lot that rainy day and what happened next.

“Having it happen there, having Rey Rivera see it happen and respond so quickly was just unbelievable,” said Irene Lau.

It was Rivera who was leaving the ballpark at that critical moment. He called 911 and — just like any other game day — there were Kent County sheriff’s deputies just yards away at the corner of West River Drive and Ball Park Drive. They were able to get to Lau quickly and start chest compressions.

Another employee of the ballpark ran to alert the EMS crew still on the scene for the rained-out game.

Lau spent weeks at the Meijer Heart Center. In early September, he and his family returned to LMCU ballpark for a special visit. Lau, his wife and their daughter all wore Rivera’s #35 jerseys. They were able to meet with him and thank him.

“I feel like the heroes are the doctors and the first responders that came in quick. I was just there to make the phone call,” said Rivera.

Rivera didn’t have to hit it out of the park that rainy Thursday: His game-saving play happened in the parking lot.

“It’s a miracle he’s here and all the things that happened and had to happen in sync, for him to be here today,” said Irene Lau.

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