RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A familiar face is back on the field at Tampa Bay’s minor league camp in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Tampa pitcher Tyler Zombro is once again playing the game he loves.
“My intention wasn’t to come back and be delayed,” said Zombro. “I’m ready to go and ready to play.”
And some would say that is a miracle.
On June 3 last year, while pitching for the Durham Bulls, Zombro was struck on the right side of his head by a 104 mph line drive. It was a horrific scene as he fell to the ground and had a seizure on the mound.
Doctors had to insert 16 titanium plates and 32 screws to ease the pressure on his brain. Now, after months of therapy to regain his motor skills, Zombro is back with his teammates.
“With all the circumstances that have happened for me to be cleared, back here, feeling normal, feeling good, like, my arm is 100 percent ready to go is miraculous,” Zombro admitted. “But I think that would not have been in the cards if it wasn’t meant for me to be here.”
Zombro underwent emergency brain surgery that lasted more than two hours at Duke University Hospital. He doesn’t remember the incident or anything else that happened the following five days.
The 27-year-old right-hander says the months after were difficult, filled with constant speech and physical therapy. But Zombro was dedicated to the task at hand, and now he’s close to being back in uniform.
“I’m out here with house money just having fun, just grateful to be out here,” smiled Zombro. “My teammates have been super-motivating to push me to get back on the field and I really appreciate them doing that.”
Surgery left Zombro with a C-shaped scar on the right side of his head. For protection, he will wear a padded cap that has a flap sticking out to cover his temple.
“But it’s really just for extra protection so that area of my temple is covered and then obviously the insert traces my hat,” Zombro explained. “So underneath my whole hat is a hard surface that has padding underneath of it.”
Now that baseball is back at the big league level, Zombro’s main focus is working his way back into game condition. Practices are sure to be amped up as a delayed opening day approaches — meaning the dog-days of summer are right around the corner.
“You really grow to appreciate those days when you’re removed from the game,” Zombro admitted. “Everyone talks of the grind of spring training and being here late and kind of complaining. But you’re not going to get many complaints out of me. I’m definitely going to soak in every day and enjoy it.”