The Cleveland Crunch wanted to draft Simon Keith, but first there were a couple of questions the newest team in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) wanted to ask him. So at a luncheon the day before the college soccer all-star game, in Wichita, Kans., last July 7, Al Miller, the Crunch's general manager, introduced himself to Keith, a 24-year-old forward from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Then Miller backed into the questions: "The word is that you had some kind of heart problem."
"Yeah," Keith said.
"What was it?" asked Miller.
"Uh, now what exactly does that mean, Simon?"
Keith pointed to his chest and said, "One out and one in."
Keith is a sincere young man from a respected family in Victoria, B.C., but people seem to have a difficult time believing his story. When a scout, coach or player says "the word" is that Keith has had a heart transplant, listeners are apt to snicker, nod and say, "Yeah, right." Sometimes even a glimpse of the thick scar that runs down the center of Keith's chest isn't enough to convince skeptics that the heart beating inside the chest of one of the best soccer players in the U.S. has been there for only three years.
Keith told Miller about the transplant only because he had asked. Afterward, Miller said, "You are one amazing person." Keith, who has grown a little weary of amazing other people, replied, "I'd rather be one amazing soccer player." Miller smiled and walked away. "Then I thought about that and turned around," he says. "I went up to him again and said, 'You are.' I decided then that we had to have him." On July 8, three years and one day after his heart transplant operation, the Crunch picked Keith No. 1 in the first round of the 1989 draft.
"Athletically speaking, there's no reason why he can't resume his normal life-style," says Dr. Noel Chant, Keith's cardiologist in Victoria. "But we are a little surprised that Simon has been able to function at the level he has."