BRISTOL - Baseball is a game of averages, and that concept is one Bristol Blues outfielder Giacomo Brancato has been well immersed in both on and off the baseball diamond.
Brancato was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before the start of his junior season at Fairfield-Warde. For a kid that shined in both baseball and basketball growing up, he was no longer facing a deficit on the scoreboard, but rather fighting for another day.
“I just kept a positive mindset and said there was no way I was going to let this thing beat me,” Brancato said. “I was determined that I was going to be fine in a few months, six months, a year, or however long it takes to be back and playing baseball. I never let myself get uncertain. I was always positive.”
His positivity, willingness to battle during countless rounds of chemotherapy, and support from family and friends helped Brancato enter remission just over three years ago today.
With the cancer in remission, Brancato was allowed to return to the field, with a new mindset on the game.
“It just put everything into a different perspective and I became grateful for more things,” Brancato said. “Now I live my life differently than I did before. I’m more appreciative of things. Even small things like baseball I approach differently. When it was taken away from me it made me realize how much I really appreciated the game.”
In his first year back at Fairfield-Warde, repeating his junior year due to the illness, Brancato was a key part of a special season. He hit in the middle of the order and helped the Mustangs reach the Class LL championship game against Amity.
With Fairfield-Warde down 3-0, Brancato stepped up to the plate with two runners on base and the opportunity to do something special.
Brancato did just that with a game-tying home run against one of the top pitchers in the state, Eli Oliphant.
“After everything I’ve been through, when I hit that it was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Brancato said. “I’ll never forget that moment.”
Oliphant had an 8-0 record in the postseason and helped guide Amity to four consecutive state championships. He is now Brancato’s teammate at Fairfield University.
Fairfield-Warde ended up losing the game 4-3 on a walk-off walk, however.
Two of the players from that year’s Amity team, Teddy and Andy Hague, are now Brancato’s teammates on the Bristol Blues this summer.
“I hadn’t known about that story prior to the game, but once I did I think it really put things into perspective for everybody,” Teddy Hague said. “It goes to show that baseball is just a game. Whether you win or lose, there’s always bigger things going on in the world. For him to hit that homer against one of the best pitchers in Connecticut high school history was something that he can always remember, and looking back on it now, it’s cool to be part of that.”
In his first collegiate season at Fairfield, Brancato batted .118. He is looking forward to improving his game with the Blues this summer. Similar to his teammates, Brancato has one specific goal in mind.
“I want to win a championship with the Blues. That’d be awesome for the fans,” Brancato said. “We have great fan support, and to be part of the first team to win the championship in Bristol would mean the world to me.”
Regardless of how far the Blues go this summer and what batting average Brancato hits for, he has a different feeling about the game.
“At some point everyone isn’t able to play the game again,” Brancato said. “I realized that not everyone has the opportunity to play a sport they love. And before I got diagnosed I took the sport for granted. I didn’t think about losing it ever. But once I got diagnosed I was like, ‘wow I can’t play sports anymore.’ I’m grateful to be able to just play again and be healthy.”