When they got the unsettling news, Fonda Morris and Tim Zombro didn’t hesitate.
Morris and Zombro, the parents of minor league pitcher and city native Tyler Zombro, are no longer married to each other. But when they heard their son had been hit by a line drive while pitching Thursday night for host Triple-A Durham in the Tampa Bay system against Norfolk, the residents of Augusta County drove that night to North Carolina.
“We went together as soon as it happened,” Tim Zombro said in a phone interview with the Daily News-Record on Sunday evening.
They headed to Duke University Hospital, a few miles from the baseball stadium in Durham and where their son was taken after the scary incident.
Zombro was in stable condition in the ICU on Sunday evening. He was out of ICU on Monday and still in stable condition, according to his mother.
Tim Zombro and Morris have been encouraged by the support they have received from the Shenandoah Valley and around the baseball community. What has that been like?
“I mean, as you ask me that, I feel like crying,” Morris said in a telephone interview. “It has been overwhelming, honestly. It just speaks volumes for the type of person Tyler is and the people he has touched back in the Valley. We are hearing from there, which is really comforting, and from all over the United States.”
“All kinds of Major League ballplayers are reaching out,” the elder Zombro said.
“We want everybody back home to know the love and prayers and positive thoughts are so appreciated. We are feeling it,” Morris added. “I feel like we are turning a corner and we credit that to the good Lord and everybody that is praying for him. We really want to get that message out. We just can’t respond to everyone. We need for those to continue for Tyler and Moriah,” his wife.
His parents are also buoyed by the improving status of their son.
“He is alert and conscious. He is very tired, and understandably so,” Morris said Sunday. “He had major brain surgery. He is alert and answering questions. He has given a lot of thumbs up for things. Right now he is worried about others and not himself. We told him to focus on his recovery.”
“It was about two hours after it happened,” Tim Zombro said of the surgery. “They did it right away.”
As of Sunday night, the only ones allowed to be in the room with Zombro were his parents and wife.
“We are told the prognosis is good and he shouldn’t be here much more than a week,” Morris said Sunday evening.
“He thanked his surgeon” Sunday, said Tim Zombro.
Tyler Zombro, 26, pitched at what is now Staunton High and in the Valley Baseball League for his hometown Staunton Braves.
He pitched at Division I George Mason in college in Fairfax then was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Tampa Bay and made his pro debut in 2017 in the minors. He pitched that year for Princeton, West Virginia in the Appalachian League.
Zombro worked his way up to the Triple-A level by 2019 but did not play organized baseball in 2020 since the pandemic called off the minor league season. He worked out in Northern Virginia last winter before moving with his wife to North Carolina.
He was a non-roster invitee to spring training this year with the Rays and saw action in three exhibition games with Tampa Bay before he was assigned to Durham, the top farm club of the Rays.
He was pitching in his ninth game this year, all out of the bullpen, when a shot off the bat by Brett Cumberland hit him in the head in the eighth inning Thursday. The game was suspended and many players on the field began praying for Zombro, according to published reports. Norfolk is the top farm team of the Baltimore Orioles.
In the stands for the game was Moriah, a registered nurse, and good friend Taylor Davis, an assistant baseball coach at Bridgewater College and a former assistant at Eastern Mennonite University. Davis played baseball at Ferrum and is a former coach with the Staunton Braves.
“She has been a super strong trooper,” Morris said of Moriah. “She has been amazing.”
Both of Zombro’s parents played sports at Bridgewater College and graduated from the school.
Tim Zombro, who played baseball for BC, and Morris have been encouraged by the support shown by the Tampa Bay organization.
On Friday, just hours after the game was halted, Eric Neander of the Rays flew from Florida to Durham to offer his support. He is the Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations/General Manager of the Rays.
As of Sunday night, the only ones allowed to be in the room with Zombro were his parents and wife. Once out of the hospital, his mother said Zombro will be back at his some in Durham with his wife. For now, it has been long days at the hospital in Durham.
“We have been setting up camp here on some wooden benches in the waiting room,” said Fort Defiance graduate Morris, a long-time educator in Augusta County and former volleyball coach at Wilson Memorial.
BASEBALL NOTES: Tampa Bay (38-23) begins a series at home Tuesday with the Washington Nationals (24-32) at 7:10 p.m. Lefty Jon Lester (0-2, 4.37) is slated to start for Washington against Tyler Glasnow (4-2, 2.69) of the Rays. ... The Orioles (21-38) put John Means, a former West Virginia University star, on the 10-day Injured List Sunday with a shoulder strain. ... Spotswood grad Austin Nicely is 0-1, 11.70 ERA in his first three games, with two starts, for York of the independent Atlantic League. ... Tanner Morris, who played for Stuarts Draft last year in the Rockingham County Baseball League, is hitting .289 with a homer for Vancouver in the Toronto farm system. He was drafted by Toronto in 2019 out of the the University of Virginia. ... Former James Madison pitcher Shelton Perkins is 0-0, 2.08 in seven games with two saves for Single-A Delmarva in the Baltimore farm system. ... Baltimore is slated to host the New York Mets on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. Bruce Zimmermann, a former pitcher for Towson University, is slated to start for his hometown team ... Virginia and ODU were slated to play Monday for the region title in South Carolina. The Cavs beat ODU 8-3 on Sunday night. ... Liberty’s Will Wagner (Montezuma, 2020) was 1-for-5 and drove in a run in a 15-4 win Sunday to knock Duke out of the regionals. ... JMU’s Nick Roberton, a native of Robertson, has a 1.80 ERA in 10 games out of the bullpen for Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system. ... Springfield native Kevin Kelly (Paul VI in Fairfax, JMU) has an ERA of 4.02 in nine games with three saves with Single-A Lake County in the Cleveland system. ... Dan Groggin, drafted by the Mets of JMU in 2019, has a 10.57 ERA in four games out of the bullpen for Double-A Binghamton. His manager in the Mets’ system is Lorenzo Bundy, a former JMU, RCBL and Valley League first baseman. ... On June 8, 1978 — 43 years ago — the Orioles drafted Larry Sheets out of what is now Staunton High in the second round. He made it to the majors in 1984. The Orioles drafted future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. in the third round in 1978 out of Aberdeen High in Maryland. ... Shenandoah native Wayne Comer (Page County) hit one of his 16 Major League homers on June 8, 1969 at Baltimore while with Seattle. The homer was hit against Dick Hall, a right-hander for the Orioles.