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Minor leaguer set to return from brain surgery after being hit by 104 mph line drive last year

Rays minor league pitcher Tyler Zambro
Posted at 11:07 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 16:30:02-05

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Tyler Zombro is stretching, playing catch and taking part in pitchers' fielding practice at Tampa Bay Rays minor league camp in Port Charlotte. But the fact that Zombro is even on the field is a miracle.

"It's a little bit of a shell-shock to everybody when I first see them," Zombro said. "My arm is 100% ready to go. It is miraculous."

Pitching for Triple-A Durham on June 3, Zombro was hit on the right side of his head by a 104 mph line drive. It was a terrifying scene as he fell to the ground and had a seizure of the mound.

"A big part of it when I did get hurt is that I can't remember five days," Zombro said.

The fractures required 16 titanium plates and 32 screws to stabilize and reduce pressure on his brain. He needed months of therapy to regain his motor skills.

"It's amazing, like, being out there today, I feel like nothing happened," he said. "I feel 100% like myself, throwing feels the same, just how the stars have aligned, I definitely feel like I should be out there.

He now wears a protective cap padded with a Kevlar insert that includes a small piece that covers his zygomatic bone, near where the eye socket and chin bones come together. It's a minor inconvenience that won't keep him away from the game.

Tyler Zombro's protective cap
Rays minor league pitcher Tyler Zambro wears this protective hat after suffering a traumatic brain injury during a game in 2021.

"You grow to really appreciate those days when you are removed from the game," he said. "Everyone talks about the grind of spring training, being here late, kind of complaining. You're definitely not going to get any complaints from me. I'm going to soak in every day and enjoy it."

Zombro expects to be ready to start the minor-league season in early April.

"That's my full intention. I'm ready for Opening Day," Zombro said. "Somebody asked me if I was [in] a rehab group or on a slow ramp up, etc. And I said my intention wasn't to come back and be delayed. I'm ready to go and ready to play."

This story was originally published by Kyle Burger on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.