By Ronnie Polidoro
Nearly nine months after being viciously beaten while leaving a Los Angeles Dodger home opener, San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow has only recovered enough to barely speak and he is still unable to walk.
NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman visited Stow at a rehabilitation center in San Jose, Calif. The 42-year-old paramedic and father of two is relearning basic things like walking, brushing his teeth, swallowing, and even how to speak. His recovery has been a slow process but he was able to greet Snyderman as part of an exclusive look at his life since the attack.
Two of the men who attended the fateful baseball game in Los Angeles with Stow, Corey Maciel and Jeff Bradford also spoke to Rock Center in an exclusive interview discussing one of the worst episodes of fan violence in American sports history.
It was opening day in March at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers were playing the defending World Series champion team, the San Francisco Giants. San Francisco fans Maciel, Bradford, and Stow, along with their friend Matt Lee, had taken a road trip to Los Angeles to root for their team.
Proudly wearing their orange and black uniforms, they stuck out in the blue sea of Dodger fans, and soon the heckling began.
“Nobody's off limits for heckling at a game, especially when it's friendly banter,” Maciel told Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
But the friendly banter soon escalated into name-calling, threats and cursing.
“At no point did we think about leaving, because as uncomfortable as we might have been at times, we had paid our money. We're here to see a baseball game,” Maciel said.
The game ended with the Dodgers winning 2-1.
As fans filtered out of the stadium, the four visitors stayed by their seats to avoid the massive crowds. When they finally left, the taunting continued into the parking lot.
“It turned from uncomfortable in the stadium to almost a hostile feeling in the parking lot,” Maciel said.
The group was staying at a nearby hotel and trying to beat the taxi stand line. Bradford says they went the long way through a dimly lit parking lot to look for a cab farther from the stadium.
“Bryan and I were side by side and talking amongst ourselves,” Maciel said. “We're walking past this car. And I noticed there's a group of people. And, next thing, one of them comes from behind the car yelling, and pushes Bryan into me.”
Maciel says his friends dismissed the trouble and kept walking, picking up the pace. The parking lot exit came into focus. Then he says he heard footsteps coming from behind them and then a loud scream.
“I turned around, and at that point, I see Jeff get punched in the face and get knocked to his back. And I just remember feeling stunned, completely stunned, almost paralyzed with the feeling of what is going on right now,” he said.
Trying to assess the situation, Maciel says he looked for his other friends.
“I looked over to see where Matt and Bryan were. And I didn't see Matt, but I saw Bryan. And somebody had his attention. And he was looking away from me.”
That’s when Maciel says Bryan was punched from behind and knocked to the ground allegedly by the same man who punched Jeff. His attacker was kicking him in the side of the head, over and over.
Maciel and Bradford say they sprinted to Stow and jumped on him to cover and protect him, begging the attacker to stop.
“Right after we had covered Bryan up, somebody from the crowd grabbed him and said, ‘That's enough. Get out of here.’ And the next thing I know, I look up and I see him running away,” Maciel said.
Maciel says he called out Stow’s name repeatedly, but his badly beaten friend gave no response. “I felt so helpless,” he said.
Stow laid there with severe injuries to his skull and brain, struggling to hold on.
In July, two suspects were arrested, Louie Alex Sanchez, 29, and Marvin Eugene Norwood, 30. Sanchez and Norwood both pled not guilty to charges of felony assault, battery, and mayhem in August. Their preliminary hearing has been set for January 17.
After seven months in the intensive care unit, much of what he spent in a medically induced coma, Stow was transferred from San Francisco General Hospital to the rehabilitation center in San Jose, Calif. Doctors say Bryan will be permanently “disabled” and expect that he will never be a paramedic again.
Despite the severity of the attack Bradford says he’s hopeful baseball’s reputation is not damaged irreparably.
“It's supposed to be a team sport. You know? Good rivalry. This is one bad instance among millions and millions of sports fans that go every year and have the time of their lives.”
Editor’s Note: Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s full report on Bryan Stow and his recovery airs tonight, Dec.19 at 10p/9c on NBC’s Rock Center.