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36-Year-Old Major League Baseball Player Aaron Boone to Have Open Heart Surgery

Aaron Boone's first priority is the long-term health of his heart. Later on, he'll decide whether to resume his baseball career.

The Houston Astros infielder announced Wednesday that he'll have open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. He said he's known about his heart condition since college but tests after his routine physical determined he required surgery. It's not an emergency, but doctors indicated the procedure was needed.

A playoff hero with the New York Yankees in 2003, the 36-year-old Boone said doctors told him he could play baseball when he recovers, but he's not sure whether he will.

"We'll see where I am a month from now, two months from now, three months from now," he said.

An emotional Boone delivered the news in Kissimmee, Fla., flanked by general manager Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper in front of a somber room filled with teammates and Astros officials.

"It definitely hits home, but I'm doing well with it," Boone said. "I feel like I'm fairly educated on it now. I have a strong faith and a great family and friends and teammates. I really am doing well and I'm ready to tackle this thing and get it behind me and get on with life."

Wade said a local doctor who did the team physicals and club physician Dr. Jim Muntz worked together to conduct tests on Boone because they knew of his condition.

"Unfortunately, the test results came out indicating there was an acceleration of the condition that Aaron has been dealing with for a number of years," Wade said.

Boone has a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital defect where the valve has only two cusps to manage the flow of blood through the heart, as opposed to the normal three. The surgery has not been scheduled, but Boone expects to set a date for the procedure later this week.

Cooper rubbed Boone's back as he expressed his concern for the player.

"As a baseball family we're here to support Aaron, as you can see by all the teammates and front office personnel we have here," Cooper said. "And anything he needs we're going to be there to help him out."

Boone said he feels fine, but he's never had symptoms of the problem. He'll make decisions about his future after he recovers and can research and talk with athletes who have returned to play after heart surgery. He mentioned getting in touch with Ronny Turiaf, who had a similar procedure and currently plays in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors.

Boone, who signed with the Astros in the offseason after spending last year with Washington, is a member of one of baseball's most familiar families. His brother Bret, father Bob and grandfather Ray were all major league All-Stars.

Aaron Boone made the NL All-Star team in 2003 with Cincinnati, then was traded to New York later that summer. That's where he took his place in baseball lore, with an 11th-inning homer against Boston to win Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series for the Yankees.