Matthew Fortese should be ironing out a best-man speech for his brother’s wedding, but instead the 25-year-old is relearning how to talk. Rather than making friends at the new job he was supposed to start two weeks ago, he is settling in at an inpatient rehabilitation center.
Mr. Fortese’s life is a far cry from what it was last month before he attended a baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and was seriously injured by another sports fan. But while attorneys on Monday pleaded for additional witnesses to what happened, Mr. Fortese’s family said they are just thankful he’s alive.
Speaking on behalf of his parents, 30-year-old James “Jimmy” Fortese said his family is “taking it one day at a time” while Matthew heals.
“This assault has turned our lives upside down,” Mr. Fortese said. “It’s coming back a little bit. He’s slowly starting to ask some more questions and recognizing people around him. But the next breath, he’ll say something totally off the wall that makes no sense.”
Court documents state that during the May 29 game between the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, Mr. Fortese began arguing with two men, 22-year-old Gregory Fleischman, and 21-year-old Michael Bell, because they were throwing beer on fans, including him.
Mr. Fortese climbed a 5-foot stairway, documents state, to the seats where the two men were sitting. During an argument, the court records say, Mr. Fleischman “punched Matthew Fortese on the side of his head with his fist causing Mr. Fortese to fall off the wall onto his head and knock him unconscious.”
Nathan Steelman, 25, an off-duty Maryland State Trooper, was nearby and performed CPR on Mr. Fortese. Court documents state that while Mr. Steelman tried to save Mr. Fortese, the two other fans involved in the scuffle were “spitting” on both of them.
Mr. Fortese arrived at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center conscious and confused, and doctors soon found bleeding in his head. Over the next few days, Mr. Fortese underwent emergency brain surgery and was kept in the intensive care unit under the careful watch of doctors, family and friends.
On Sunday, Mr. Fontese was moved to an inpatient rehabilitation center for physical and occupational therapy.
Mr. Bell was charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct, while Mr. Fleischman was charged with first- and second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.
Both men were due in court Monday. A call to Mr. Bell’s attorney was not returned, and no attorney was listed in online court records for Mr. Fleischman.
The incident at Camden Yards is not the first report of fan-on-fan violence. In 2011, 42-year-old paramedic Bryan Stow was assaulted by two fans during a game in Los Angeles between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. His injuries require constant care, and he just returned home from a treatment center this month.
Ryan Diviney, 24, was a West Virginia University student when he suffered brain damage after he was beaten during a fight in 2009 that escalated from words exchanged about the World Series.
“A guy takes a second date to an Orioles’ game,” said Baltimore-based attorney Andrew Alperstein, who is representing Mr. Fortese. “This is not what she signed up for, not what he signed up for, not what his mom, dad and brother were hoping for.”
Mr. Alperstein said that he has not ruled anything in or out in terms of filing a lawsuit.
“This kind of behavior at sporting events has no place,” Mr. Alperstein said. “It’s outrageous, it ruins lives, it’s irresponsible, and it’s not what sportsmanship and games are all about.”