SAN FRANCISCO -- Bryan Stow has proved that he possesses the heart of a fighter.
Stow, 43, sustained skull and brain injuries resulting from the brutal beating he absorbed in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the Giants' 2011 season opener. Since then, Stow has improved, albeit haltingly. His mother, Ann Stow, said that he can maintain conversations and is learning to walk again.
"We just take one day at a time," she said. "When somebody asks me, 'What does the future hold for Bryan?' I say, 'Ask me tomorrow.' He progresses and then he has a setback."
The Stow family is nevertheless excited about Thanksgiving. About 10 relatives and friends will share the day with Bryan at a rehabilitation facility in Bakersfield, Calif., where he has stayed for the past nine months.
"That's something that we weren't too hopeful about in 2011, how many holidays would we be able to celebrate with him again," Ann Stow said. "We're just going to be so blessed to have Bryan there. He's going to be the man of the hour."
That was the case this year on April 13, when Bryan's son, Tyler, threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Giants' regular-season home opener. Tyler accepted the ball "virtually" from his dad, who appeared with Ann in a video shown on the scoreboard. Seated in his wheelchair, Stow lifted his arm as if to toss a ball to Tyler and said, "Tyler, here's the ball. Good luck, son."
As the Giants' postseason surge peaked with their World Series appearance, Ann Stow received a text message from club president and chief executive officer Larry Baer, who invited her and the rest of the family to attend either of the first two Fall Classic games in San Francisco. It was assumed that Bryan, confined to his wheelchair at the Bakersfield facility, would not attend. But Ann had other ideas.
"I got to thinking 'what if' -- what if Bryan got to go? And it just snowballed from there," she said. "Everybody at the clinic worked so hard to make that happen."
Workers transported Bryan Stow to his home in Capitola, which a generous men's group had made wheelchair-accessible. The next day, the Stows attended the Giants' 2-0 victory. A seat was removed from the exterior portion of the suite they occupied so Stow could feast his eyes upon the action. Though Stow tends to take frequent naps, Ann Stow said that he stayed awake for the entire game.
She made sure that plenty of photographs were taken to record the delights of the evening for Stow.
"Sometimes his memory gets a little sketchy and he doesn't remember, so we create scrapbooks of different events for him," she said.
The fun didn't end with the game. Stow was taken to the players' parking lot, where he was reunited with Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt. The left-hander has visited Stow on several occasions during his rehabilitation.
"He has really been there for Bryan all along, and we're just so grateful for that," Ann Stow said.
Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper also spent time with the group.
"It was a phenomenal experience," Ann Stow said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
When the Stows count their blessings, they'll forever include the Giants.
"They just don't understand how thankful we are," Ann Stow said. "I can always say, 'Thank you, thank you,' and it comes out so puny. But we are so grateful to Larry Baer and all the Giants."
Fundraising information can be found at www.Support4BryanStow.com.