Mattituck’s courageous catcher bounces back from brain surgery

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | One year after undergoing emergency brain surgery, Mattituck catcher Greg Siliris turned in an all-league season with a team-leading .346 batting average.

Steve De Caro, being the fun-loving high school baseball coach that he is, likes to stir the pot sometimes with his Mattituck Tuckers. He does that through some good-natured teasing or harmless mischief. On Friday, for example, he told his catcher, Greg Siliris, who might be the team’s best hitter, that he would be sixth or ninth in the batting order later that day in a scrimmage against the Southold First Settlers.

“He spent the day basically whining,” said De Caro.

That was all in good fun. Of course, the truth of the matter is that Siliris’ true batting place this coming season will be third or fourth, right in the heart of the order.

It’s to be expected. After all, Siliris led the Tuckers last year with a .346 batting average. The senior catcher turned in an all-league season, and this one year after undergoing emergency brain surgery.

Siliris’ sophomore season was cut short five games into the schedule after he felt pain and then numbness in his right throwing arm. It was later learned that a cyst was putting pressure on his spine, causing nerve damage and posing a threat of paralysis. Siliris learned that he had been born with a condition known as Arnold-Chiari malformation, which is a malformation of the brain. On April 17, 2009, he underwent emergency brain surgery at Stony Brook University Medical Center. In an operation that lasted about nine and a half hours, an incision was made in the back of Siliris’ head. Part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure, and a hole was drilled through the spine.

Although he was told he would have to give up football, Siliris is grateful he can still play baseball. With everything he has been through, Siliris said he has a greater appreciation for the game.

“I always kind of took things for granted and now I feel like I’m lucky to be playing a sport,” he said. “I’m lucky to be able to play baseball again. It just opened my eyes.”

Siliris made quite a comeback last year, catching every inning of every game. In recognition of his efforts, he received the Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association’s Courage Award.

“He’s just a tough kid to have brain surgery and come back like that,” said De Caro.

Siliris said he surprised himself with how well he played. What’s more, he could be looking at another big season this year. He said he is quicker, stronger and in better shape than he was last year.

“Everything’s back to normal,” he said. “I put everything behind me pretty much. I’ve been working out, working hard, trying to get back into regular baseball shape again because all of last year I was pretty much just trying to get back, and now I feel I’m finally there again.”

“It’s great to be back,” he continued. “I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been. I feel like I’m going to do good this season and we’re all just going to have a tremendous season.”

De Caro said: “He’s the leader of the team. He looks great. He sees the baseball like the size of a watermelon. He looks great behind the plate. He sets a great example for the younger kids.”

What did Siliris take away from the scary situation he survived as a sophomore?

“You can’t take things for granted,” he said. “Not everything is set in stone. Things can be lost and things can be gained.”

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