'Dream come true': Brito returns to Rochester
Four hundred and eleven days later, Daniel Brito walked out onto the field where he collapsed with a brain hemorrhage. He gripped a baseball in his right hand. He was smiling. On July 31, 2021 Brito started at second base for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on the road at Frontier Field
Four hundred and eleven days later,
On July 31, 2021 Brito started at second base for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on the road at Frontier Field in Rochester. Brito suffered the hemorrhage in the bottom of the first inning and was rushed to the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital for emergency, life-saving surgeries.
After a miraculous recovery and return to baseball this year, Brito went back to Rochester for the first time to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before Thursday's game between the IronPigs and Red Wings.
The 24-year-old from Venezuela, who was batting .295 with eight home runs in 71 games last season when the hemorrhage happened, wore his IronPigs jersey. He reminded himself that this moment was one step toward his goal.
"I'm motivated to regain what I've wanted," Brito said through interpreter Ed Díaz, the Red Wings’ associate Baseball Chapel Chaplain, who was with him throughout his hospital stay. "To get back to the baseball field."
As Brito walked onto Frontier Field, his wife, Anyelis, who rushed from Ohio to Rochester to be with her then-fiancé as he fought for his life, was with him again, holding his hand. At the mound, Brito was surrounded by the team of doctors and nurses from the University of Rochester Medical Center who saved his life.
"This is our dream come true," said Dr. Debra Roberts, the director of the URMC neuromedicine ICU. "This is why we do this. We don't get the chance to see our patients down the line very often -- and we certainly don't get the chance to see our patients throw a first pitch at a baseball game very often."
Brito needed two brain surgeries. He was in a coma for about a month. His left side was paralyzed, and he couldn't think quickly. But he woke up. He walked. He did physical therapy every day. He started throwing a ball with his nurses.
Eventually, the Phillies brought him to one of their facilities to rehab. In March, he started baseball activities. In April, he married Anyelis.
"Thinking back [to what happened], it's not a fun time for me," Brito said. "But to know where I'm at today, and looking forward, I'm optimistic."
Still with the Phillies, who extended his contract while he was in the hospital, Brito is now rehabbing in Columbus, Ohio. He's lifting weights, hitting and fielding. He's getting close. At the end of this month, he said, he'll go the Instructional League in Florida to start playing baseball again.
"I feel very emotional. But I'm excited to get back onto the field," Brito said. "I just want to go play again."
Strrrrriike! Congrats to Daniel Brito on a triumphant return to— UR Medicine (@UR_Med) September 15, 2022
Frontier Field after he collapsed during a @RocRedWings game last year. As he threw out the first pitch, he was joined by our Neuro ICU team that helped saved his life. pic.twitter.com/bXQFeBfQjV
When Brito and Anyelis walked to the mound Thursday, they got a standing ovation from the crowd. The Rochester fans remember Brito.
"I think that’s why it was really important for us to bring him back here: so our fans could see him," said Red Wings general manager Dan Mason, who was there when Brito collapsed. He remembers how the crowd gasped, and the minutes felt like hours.
"Not a day goes by where [we] don't get asked, 'Hey, how’s Daniel Brito doing?' So what better way to show our community, than by having him here to throw out a first pitch."
Anyelis said she's grateful for the outpouring of support she and Brito received from the Rochester community, for the URMC medical staff who took care of Daniel, for the Red Wings and the Phillies, who within days of Brito's emergency had flown in his mother, Neydrix Sifontes, from Venezuela, and paid for hotel rooms and meals.
Even though Brito doesn't like thinking back to last July, stepping back onto that field in Rochester reminded him of what his baseball career can still be.
"I just feel that everything is great," Brito said. "I'm getting back -- not just to the feeling of Triple-A, but to have the opportunity to play one more time."