Sports

Actions

Will Brian's Bounce Back

EKU relief pitcher suffers seizure in 2021; becomes one of the best closers in college baseball in 2022
Will Brian (2022_03-26 vs Bellarmine by Corey Rush) (4).jpg
Posted at 4:23 AM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 04:23:20-04

RICHMOND, Ky. — Will Brian's lifelong dream of playing professional baseball is finally coming to fruition.

On Monday, July 18, 2022, the New York Yankees selected the Eastern Kentucky pitcher with the 310th pick of the 10th round in the Major League Baseball Draft.

"This is a big dream for everybody," Brian told LEX 18. "I'm just ready to get the chance to do it. I have a lot of people supporting me. My wife at home, my family, coaches, teammates, everybody. I just want to make them all proud."

Brian's collegiate career has had many ups and downs. Nine games into his freshman season he suffered a season-ending elbow injury called a 'nerve malady'.

After surgery and missing an entire season in 2020 because of COVID, he was able to make a speedy recovery. However, prior to his redshirt junior season, Brian faced his toughest battle yet.

On November 19th, 2021, Will was in the locker room with some of his teammates receiving their new gloves. He and former EKU pitcher, Niko Leontarakis, were sitting next to each other.

"Him and I were looking at our gloves and were joking around about how the two seniors have the most basic gloves of all the custom ones we had," Leontarakis told LEX 18. "He looked at me and said 'Oh yeah!"

From that point, Leontarakis said that Brian starting walking in the opposite direction, spinning in circles. Niko thought Will was just fooling around until he saw him hit one of the lockers head first.

"As he was spinning out, he was getting ready to fall down and hit his head and I had to run up to him and catch him," Leontarakis said.

Mysteriously, Will had suffered a seizure and as he recalls, it was the first one that's ever happened in his family.

"I went into the locker room as fast as I could get in there," head coach Chris Prothro told LEX 18. "It's like his body was in the shape of a 'U'. He was kind of locked up, seizing and arms and legs kind of folded. I just kept rubbing his back and telling him to breathe."

Once the paramedics arrived, Will regained consciousness briefly and contacted his wife,
Makenzie, to alert her of what happened before blacking out again. Waking up in the hospital, Brian said the doctors couldn't figure out what triggered the seizure to happen.

"They basically said it could've came from dehydration, stress," Brian said. "It's kind of a freak accident so that's kind of what they're calling this."

After two weeks, Will regained his memory after he couldn't remember his wife's name amongst other things. Over the next six months, Will was restricted from driving, cooking and taking a shower alone.

Once he fully recovered and had zero seizures after his initial one, Brian put his focus back on the mound. As he trained for the 2022 season, something felt different.

"My very first bullpen back from the seizure I was sitting like 92, 94 (mph)," Brian said. "We were all kind of in shock like 'wow, that's new!".

Brian went on to have the best season of his career.

In 31 appearances out of Eastern Kentucky's bullpen, Brian won three times (3-0) with a 1.83 ERA, tallied 15 saves (breaking the school's single-season record), and 53 strikeouts while holding opponents to just .121 at the plate.

"He was, from a velocity standpoint, was better than he had ever been," Prothro told LEX 18. "I joked with him and said maybe this seizure unlocked some kind of super power within you for you to be the best version of yourself."

Brian ended the season tied for third nationally in saves in the NCAA. He was also selected as a first-team All-American and finalist for the Stopper of the Year Award by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association as one of the top relief pitchers in college baseball.

"Throughout college, the first few years, I really didn't think this was something that could happen," Brian said. "I really tried not to look at my seizure as a negative thing. It would've just made everything worse on the field. I kind of just forgot about it. I'm just glad I'm okay."

If there is one thing the Yankees organization knows now about their rookie pitcher, it's that Will Brian can bounce back from any type of adversity that comes his way.