Duke baseball player Matt Berezo was one of the millions of people who tuned in on Easter Sunday to watch the Blue Devils play Louisville in an NCAA tournament game, but Berezo was one of only a few who knew what Louisville guard Kevin Ware was going through when he suffered his horrific leg injury.
"I turned away," Berezo said. "I didn't want to see it. I knew exactly what happened."
Berezo, a junior outfielder and designated hitter from Pine-Richland, sustained a similar injury one year earlier during batting practice before a game at Georgia Tech. He was making the transition from infielder to outfielder and was shagging balls in the outfield on March 30, 2012.
Music blared from the fraternity houses just outside the outfield walls and over the loudspeakers inside the stadium. Berezo had a bead on a fly ball, but so did a teammate who was coming over from center field. Neither heard the other call for the ball.
Berezo sustained a fractured tibia and his promising sophomore season was over.
"It was a freak accident," Berezo said. "It was basically the same thing as Kevin Ware, but my bone didn't come through the skin."
Berezo had surgery two days later and the surgeon told him he was fortunate. His injury would still require 6 to 8 months of rehabilitation, but his tibia fracture was clean, which would all for an aggressive rehabilitation.
"I was asking [the doctor] all kinds of questions," said Berezo, the Post-Gazette's player of the year in 2010 after he hit .475 and led the Rams to the WPIAL Class AAA championship.
"Speed is a big thing for me. That's the first thing I asked: would the injury affect my speed? Would I have to become a different player when I came back? He said it wouldn't. He said the good thing was it was a bone. It wasn't like I tore up my knee or my ankle and there was a ligament involved."
Berezo came home for the first half of the summer and did his rehabilitation at Evolution Sports Institute in Bridgeville. He went back to Duke for the second half of the summer and got back on the field well ahead of schedule.
"I was healed up two months ahead of schedule," he said. "I wasn't supposed to hit for four months, but I was hitting by May. I was full speed by August."
Berezo hasn't missed a beat for the Blue Devils this spring. He is batting .281 with three doubles and 17 RBIs through the first 30 games. He hit .281 in 29 games before the injury last season.
"I'm not really surprised," Berezo said. "When you work hard, good things happen."
First-year coach Chris Pollard is using Berezo mostly as a designated hitter because he injured an ankle sliding into second base about a month ago.
Berezo is hoping to play an outfield position once his ankle is completely healed.
The Blue Devils were 20-14 overall and 8-7 in the Coastal Division in the ACC heading into Wednesday's game against North Carolina Central. Next season, Berezo is hoping for a home-and-away series with one of the new members of the conference -- Pitt.
Berezo has not played a college baseball game in his hometown and he's looking forward to that opportunity if it arises.
"I'm really excited about that, to get the chance to play in front of my friends and family" he said.
Berezo's goal is to continue his career at the professional level. His father, Lalo, was selected in the 19th round of the 1984 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Lalo spent one season in the Reds minor league system.sportscollegenational
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.