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Thursday
Oct042012

A's Pitcher Mourns Death of Child, Autopsy May Give Clues

J. Meric/Getty Images(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Oakland A's baseball pitcher Pat Neshek, whose team was on its way to taking the American League West title from the Texas Rangers, witnessed the birth of his newborn son in Florida -- calling it "the sweetest play off birth of my career."

But 23 hours later that joy turned to tragedy when the baby died of no apparent cause.

The wrenching story went online in real time as Neshek tweeted first his excitement of the birth and then the death Wednesday of their seemingly healthy 8-pound, 5-ounce son, Gehrig John Neshek.

"Please pray for my family," he wrote on Twitter with an accompanying photo of mother and son. "Tonight my wife and I lost our first and only son 23 hours after he was born with no explanation."

"This happens sometimes," said Dr. Edward Bell, professor of pediatrics and director of neonatology at the University of Iowa, who is not involved with this case. "Fortunately, it's very rare."

"I don't know the circumstances, but it's pretty unusual to find a baby dead in the bassinette in the hospital because usually the parents or the nurse notice something and the baby gets transferred to intensive care," said Bell. "I don't know if anything like that happened in this case."

"It's going to be important to have an inquiry into what may have precipitated the event," he said. "That may be very helpful for the parents if they are looking for answers -- if not spare them the heartbreak. But at least it will give them some idea of why it happened."

It was not immediately clear if the death occurred in the hospital, where newborns are usually kept for 24 hours, or at their home after an early release.

The first step in getting answers will be to "look back and find clues," said Bell. "They will start with the where and when and how did it happen – what was going on. Was the baby at home or at the hospital? What happened just before he died."

"There are a lot of things that can threaten the life of a newborn, including birth defects, infection, genetic disease and even unfortunate things like accidents and suffocation," he said.

Doctors say that there has been a move toward early discharge but hospitals generally prefer not to send the baby home before 24 hours because of these types of cases.

"It's hard to know anything without more information," said Dr. Ian Holzman, chief of neonatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "We need to know where the baby was found dead. Babies can have obstructed airways feeding or being put down wrong way."

"Of course, we don't want to blame the parents," he said. "It's horrible what the parents are going through."

Even a child born with birth defects can look normal at delivery, according to Holzman. Congenital heart defects may not be picked up at first. "There can be genetic reasons why a baby all of a sudden dies, but it's very rare."

Neshek, 32, had been given leave from the A's to attend the birth and missed the team's dramatic winning games. He has been a Major League pitcher since 2006.

He runs his own website and is also an avid blogger.

Pat Neshek last pitched for the A's on Sunday. The former Twins reliever had a 1.92 ERA in 19 2/3 innings for Oakland this season. The A's are set to face the Tigers in the ALDS beginning on Saturday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio