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Fanatic (n) – a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.

While the word fan is short for fanatic, most sports fans would never classify themselves as fanatics or someone who might take their love of team to an extreme and potentially injure another person, as you might see from religious or political zealots. 

However, a decade ago, that’s the exact horrifying scenario San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow experienced during Opening Day at Dodgers Stadium. The paramedic and father of two was beaten so badly he remained comatose for nine months, clinging to life. On Friday, after years of recovery and enduring some incredibly challenging times, Stow pulled off the unthinkable when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the Giants home opener. 

Giants fan Bryan Stow viciously attacked by Dodgers fans in 2011

It was a headline you might expect to read associated with a European soccer match, not a Major League Baseball game. “Fan brutally attacked by fans; now in a coma fighting for life.” A decade ago, sports media outlets ran a similar headline following the LA Dodgers home opener against the rival San Francisco Giants to start the 2011 season. 

Giants fan Bryan Stow was just like the millions of fans who attend MLB games each season. He traveled to LA and watched his team lose the season opener 2-1. After the game and wearing his Buster Posey jersey, Stow was trying to find a taxi back to his hotel when he was blindsided by an attack in the parking lot, his head crashing into the ground. The attackers then kicked his skull and ribs. 

There were numerous days doctors weren’t sure Stow would survive. He remained in a coma for nine months. After he awoke, he began a long arduous road to recovery.  

Parties responsible held accountable for incident

In February 2014, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood were sentenced for the brutal attack of Giants fan Bryan Stow. Sanchez received an eight-year sentence in state prison while Norwood was sentenced to four years. 

Judge George Lomeli condemned the two defendants for their behavior.

“You are the biggest nightmare for individuals that attend public events. My biggest fear is that we run into people like you who have no civility and no respect for individuals. In the end, it was only a game,” Lomeli said. 

In June of that year at another trial, jurors awarded Stow $14 million from the Dodgers for past and future medical expenses and loss of earnings. He also received a $4 million judgment for pain and suffering, but the Dodgers were only responsible for paying $1 million.

Giants fan Bryan Stow throws out first pitch

A decade after getting beaten to the brink of death, Bryan Stow is still a loyal Giants fan, and he showed it on Friday night during the team’s season opener. 

With the assistance of a walker, Stow made his way out on to the field wearing his familiar orange and black Giants jersey. With the fans giving him a standing ovation, he triumphantly held up the ball, and then threw out the ceremonial first pitch. 

It was an emotional moment for all those in the park and those watching on TV. And it was the perfect final chapter to conclude a decade-long journey that included a tremendous amount of pain and hardship, all overcome by incredible strength, grace, and perseverance.

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