FARMINGTON HILLS (WWJ) – It’s hard to believe that Salvatore Cipriano will be throwing out the first pitch at the Detroit Tigers game on Thursday.
In the early morning hours of April 16, 2012, Salvatore’s adopted brother Tucker, then 19, and one of Tucker’s friends brutally attacked the family with a baseball bat. Dad Robert, 52, was killed. Salvatore, then 17, and his mother Rose, then 51, were beaten nearly to death. Twin brother Tanner and little sister Isabella, then 8, hid during the attack and were uninjured.
It continues to be a long road to recovery for Salvatore, who goes by the nickname “Tore.” He has learned how to walk again but cannot speak yet and continues to suffer seizures. Still, Rose says she’s amazed at her son’s accomplishments — which will be on public display Aug. 10 as Salvatore throws out the first pitch at Comerica Park.
“I feel, this is a huge celebration for us,” Rose told WWJ’s Laura Bonnell. “It’s been a lot of work to take this on, Salvatore taking it on. It’s a huge celebration. It’s very positive.”
Salvatore and his father were kindred spirits when it came to baseball, so the opportunity to throw out a first pitch at the Tigers game is a dream come true.
“My husband loved baseball and this is a memory and a connection for us to stay with him,” said Rose.
Before and after the attack, the constant for Salvatore has always been baseball. His brother said it’s a way for him to feel connected with his late father.
“Watching Tore get ready for the baseball game, it’s like he’s getting ready to play another game, like, with our dad,” said Tanner. “It’s that relationship that has always been around in our life. It feels like when Tore’s practicing right now, it feels like dad’s coaching him. It’s been really cool.”
Tanner said he’s completely blown away by his brother’s progress in recovery.
“From the beginning, as far as he had fallen physically, if there’s anybody to get through all of this, it would be my brother,” he said. “Being able to watch him just to fulfill those expectations has been really awesome. And at this point, there’s no real end in sight.”
Although he can’t speak, Salvatore uses an app on his cell phone to communicate. He said he’s not nervous, but he’s going to make sure he gets lots of rest on Wednesday night to be at his best at Comerica Park.
Although he won’t be there physically when Salvatore takes to the pitcher’s mound, the Ciprianos know Robert will be looking on from the heavens as a proud father.
“He’s watching,” said Rose.
“He’s coaching, that’s what we say,” Tanner responded, to Rose’s laughter. “He’s got the whistle. He was always the one to tell us, ‘Keep running.'”
It’s hard to ignore their traumatic past, but Rose — who was in a coma for two weeks after the attack and now has metal plates in her face and head — said their only option now is to move on and continue living for days like Thursday.
“I say that we’re not going to ever give up, that we can decide each day how to work through our day,” she said. “The best thing we’ve done is we all stay positive and we keep working through it and we don’t give up.”
The Ciprianos still live in the same Farmington Hills home where the attack and murder took place. Even through all that has happened, Rose has continuously written letters to Tucker in prison.
“It’s important for me because he’s my son and there was many things around it that happened before this night happened,” she said. “So for me, the connection with him to understand more is what I’m trying to find out.”
Rose said the letter writing began with Salvatore, who wanted answers from his brother about why he did what he did. So far, Tucker hasn’t been able to explain it. But there’s still time — Tucker, now 24, and his friend Mitchell Young, 25, are spending life in prison for their roles in the attack.
If you’d like to help the Cipriano family with medical costs not covered by insurance, you can donate to the CiprianoChildrensTrust.org.