|Tuesday, February 18
Updated: March 13, 12:59 PM ET
Pitcher may have been taking diet supplement
ESPN.com news services
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A medical examiner will sort out the circumstances that caused the death of Steve Bechler, a newlywed, expectant father and pitching prospect for the Baltimore Orioles.
Bechler died of heatstroke Monday, less than 24 hours after a spring training workout that sent his temperature to 108 degrees.
He was an overweight athlete pushing himself in warm, humid weather much different from the climate in his native Oregon. And he may have been taking a dietary supplement that has been linked to heatstroke and heart attacks.
Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper acknowledged a published report that a bottle of a supplement containing ephedrine was found in Bechler's locker.
Regarding the bottle, Perper said: "My understanding is it exists, but we don't have it."
The Washington Post also reported that, according to an unidentified source, the bottle of ephedrine initially was being hid by a teammate of Bechler's but that it eventually was turned over to rescue workers who came to the pitcher's aid.
Perper said his office planned to begin an autopsy Tuesday, and that it could be two or three weeks before the final results are known.
A workout Sunday left Bechler pale and dizzy. When his condition deteriorated, he was carried from the clubhouse to an ambulance on a stretcher. He spent the night in intensive care and died at 10:10 a.m. Monday at Northridge Medical Center.
Bechler, 23, died of "multi-organ failure due to heatstroke," said William Goldiner, the Orioles' team physician.
"He would rebound at times," Goldiner said. "They thought they were getting ahead of it, and then another organ system would fail."
Bechler's wife, Kiley, due to deliver their first child in April, was at his bedside. They married last year.
The center-field flag at Fort Lauderdale Stadium was at half-staff when the mourning Orioles resumed workouts Tuesday.
At 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds, Bechler had battled weight for much of his five-year professional career. Asked about the pitcher's conditioning, manager Mike Hargrove was quoted as saying it was "not good."
The temperature at noon Sunday was 81 degrees and the humidity was 74 percent, the National Weather Service said.
Goldiner said he wasn't aware of any evidence that Bechler had been taking a dietary supplement such as ephedrine, which has been banned by the NCAA and NFL but not by Major League Baseball. The Orioles' policy is to discourage the use of the amphetaminelike stimulant, he said.
"Weight-loss drugs are never prescribed by us," Goldiner said. "They're never condoned by us."
Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said he could neither confirm nor deny a report by The Washington Times that a bottle of a supplement containing ephedrine was found in Bechler's locker.
"We'll cooperate in every way with the medical examiner's office," Stetka said. "Everything we find we'll turn over and apprise them of."
Said baseball spokesman Rich Levin: "We're going to wait to find out more about what happened."
Funeral arrangements were pending.
A native of Medford, Ore., Bechler was a third-round draft pick by the Orioles in 1998. He made his major league debut last September, going 0-0 with a 13.50 ERA in three relief appearances. He was expected to begin this season with the club's new Triple-A affiliate in Ottawa.
Bechler spent most of last year at Triple-A Rochester, going 6-11 with a 4.09 ERA in 24 starts.
"He was one of my favorite players that I had ever been around," said Joe Castellano, a radio play-by-play broadcaster for Rochester. "He had a great personality. He was everything that was good about baseball."
Bechler's wife was driving from Oregon to Florida when she was reached by cell phone with the news her husband had been taken to the hospital. She took a flight from Salt Lake City on Sunday and arrived in Fort Lauderdale shortly before midnight.
Bechler's parents learned of his death when they arrived Monday in Miami, Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. They had traveled from their Oregon home after Bechler fell ill.
In 2001, heatstroke was blamed for the death of Vikings lineman Korey Stringer, who collapsed during training camp. Stringer's widow has filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the team and its doctors.
Last season, baseball was stunned by the death of St. Louis pitcher Darryl Kile. He died in June from blocked coronary arteries while in Chicago for a game.
Baltimore players were briefed about Bechler's condition during a clubhouse meeting before Monday's workout. They were summoned inside a short while later and told of his death, and the rest of the day's training schedule was called off.
"Everybody was in shock," pitcher Rodrigo Lopez said.
Bechler fell down while running drills Sunday and Hargrove said he could tell Bechler wasn't feeling well.
"He was about 60 percent of the way through it when we noticed that he was a little white-faced," Hargrove said. "He was leaning against a fence ... which isn't unusual when guys get tired. We put him on a cart and brought him in and called the paramedics."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.