08/12/2017 2:03 PM
Things didn't turn out the way the Brooklyn Bluestorm wanted on Thursday as they dropped a 10-5 decision to the Dodgers Elite in the Borough Cup U-13 title game at Yankee Stadium.
The loss, however, is just a hiccup in what's been a spring/summer season that has seen the Bluestorm win numerous tournaments, including last month's National Youth Baseball Championship.
And if the players were feeling down about the setback, all they had to do was look inside their own dugout to put things in proper perspective.
Gino Granato is the 13-year-old nephew of Bluestorm manager Matt DiGrigoli. And while he suits up for contests, he doesn't play. Still, there are few youngsters more important to the successful chemistry of the club.
Granato and his family have endured challenging and difficult times since Gino was 3, when he first experienced a brain hemorrhage. An MRI diagnosis revealed Gino had cavernous malformation, a rare type of abnormality of the blood vessels; for Gino, it was located on the brain stem.
Gino has undergone several procedures since, including brain surgery at the age of 9 in Arizona. And next week, he is headed to Texas for a facial graft to help give him a more symmetrical smile.
"But he's been in our dugout all season," noted DiGrigoli. "He would love to play; unfortunately, he has certain deficiencies that prevent that, like blurred vision."
He has never used his condition as an excuse.
"After brain surgery when he was 9, Gino couldn't walk for over a month," said his mother, Enza. "That was in June of that year; by September, he was walking to school on his own.
"He just wants to be a 'normal' kid. He's worked so hard to attend a 'regular' school (Manalapan Englishtown Middle School in New Jersey, where he will be entering eighth grade). It's been a big accomplishment."
Gino loves watching his uncle and cousin Antonio, the Bluestorm catcher, "but his thing now is playing soccer," Enza said. "With all he's been through, he's been an inspiration for everyone."
DiGrigoli heartily agreed.
"If he's willing to work so hard to make himself better, the players know there's no reason why they can't," the manager said. "But the boys treat Gino like he's one of them."
As for being able to see his favorite baseball team Thursday at Yankee Stadium: "It's amazing," Gino said. "It's really cool."