DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jessy and John Schneider were starving as they sat down to lunch at Clear Sky Draft Haus, a casual eatery around the corner from Main Street in downtown Dunedin, about a five-minute drive from the team players. complex, where they came from.
While waiting for their food, Jessy looked up at her husband, who seemed to have seen a ghost. She turned to look at the rest of the restaurant and noticed, a few tables away, a woman who looked distressed.
“He stands up graciously, don’t freak out,” Jessy said of her husband, who walked over to the woman’s table and asked the people she was with, “Excuse me, can I? ‘help?”
While the other people at her table seemed unsure of how to help her and the rest of the people in their section of the restaurant had yet to quite react, Schneider realized that the woman, who appeared to be in her 50s, was choking. The Blue Jays manager hadn’t thought about the Heimlich maneuver since he learned it in school, but what he did remember he put to good use. After about two pushes, a piece of shrimp came out of the woman’s mouth, clearing her airway.
“The way he kept his composure, you would have thought he was handling a joker game,” Jessy said. Athleticism. “It was so graceful.”
It had been a quiet day of spring training on Sunday when news of Schneider’s life-saving moment about two weeks ago spread through camp. First reported by Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae, Schneider recounted the incident to reporters during his regular afternoon media availability.
“Right place, right time,” he said. “You either help me or you don’t, and I decided to go see if I could help.”
As Schneider swung into action, his wife sat at their table, ready to dial 9-1-1. But, instead, she watched her husband deal with the medical emergency alone.
“I’m a bigger guy,” said Schneider, who is about 6-foot-3. “I think that helped a bit. But I hadn’t thought about the Heimlich maneuver since sixth grade.
Although it was a dramatic real-life moment, the series of events did not play out like in the movies, Schneider said. “It wasn’t like the other side of the table,” he said. “(The prawns) came naturally.”
Jessy said she had no idea her husband even knew how to do the Heimlich maneuver until then. After leaving the restaurant, he also taught her how to do it.
Afterwards, the woman appreciated Schneider’s rescue efforts and thanked him.
“(It’s) not like you’re looking for a pat on the back,” Schneider said. “She said ‘thank you’ and continued her meal with her friends.”
Nicholas Christakos, the general manager of Clear Sky Draft Haus, said in a phone call with Athleticism Sunday that he was not there at the time, but heard from staff how Schneider had “swung into action.” Christakos said he and the staff were relieved the woman was okay and that Schneider was grateful to have been there to help.
The duty manager the next day came to the Schneiders’ table to show his gratitude. Schneider also received a complimentary beer from the house, which he said he appreciated.
“I was a little shaken afterwards, so the beer came in handy,” Schneider said.
After his heroic moment, Jessy was in awe of what he had done for the woman – how he had ‘saved her life’. But John continued to downplay it.
“He goes, ‘Yeah, it’s okay, I don’t want to make a fuss about it,'” she said. “I ended up telling the story to his parents, just thinking they would be parents proud and he downplayed her again at that point.”
Schneider said he didn’t believe anyone at the restaurant at the time knew he was associated with the Blue Jays, who have called Dunedin their spring home since the franchise was born in 1977.
“That’s how popular I am here,” he joked.
Kidding aside, Schneider may have played nonchalantly, but he was happy to step in to help in what could have been an even scarier situation. His wife was also proud.
“It was like he had a mission and he had to do it,” Jessy said. “And he did.”
(Top photo by John Schneider: Ray Seebeck/USA Today)