Brogna returns after battle with cancer

Brogna returns after battle with cancer

NEW YORK -- Rico Brogna, the Angels' player information coach, rejoined the team in the Bronx over the weekend after the biggest scare of his life.

In early May, roughly two months after noticing a growth in his groin, Brogna was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The 45-year-old former first baseman underwent surgery on May 13. Doctors told him the cancer hadn't spread, prompting Brogna to return to the team less than four weeks later.

"This is very sobering, it's immediate, it's gripping," Brogna said prior to Saturday's game at Yankee Stadium. "That phone call you get, it's like when you're a kid and you get called to the office. You think, 'What did I do wrong?' There's a pit in your stomach. Magnify that times 100 with this phone call."

The phone call came late in the afternoon of May 8, immediately after the first pitch of an Angels-Astros game in Anaheim.

A Spring Training physical had revealed nothing, and Brogna did his best to ignore the problem when the regular season began.

"I think I was just hoping it would go away," he said.

Brogna finally decided to tell the team's athletic trainer, Adam Nevala, while the team was in San Francisco at the beginning of May. Nevala sent him to Dr. Craig Milhouse, who performed an ultrasound that revealed "a 99.9 percent chance" of cancer. By the third inning on May 8, Brogna had left the team to board a flight home in Connecticut, to be with his wife and two children.

"The first tears really came when I got home to my family," he said. "The second tears came when all the players on the team started texting me."

The cancer was encapsulated, so there's a good chance Brogna will be fine. Doctors are hoping to avoid chemotherapy but will have Brogna undergo CT scans every three months for the next two years to be sure.

Brogna wants to encourage others to get tested "and not be stubborn like I was."

"If it was going to be cancer -- which is never really good, I guess -- that was the best it could have been," he said. "I got really good news, but through it all, it was a really frightening process."

Brogna wanted to keep his situation under wraps until now because he didn't want to be a distraction. His role involves poring through data and video to help compile scouting reports, but it largely involves being a liaison between the front office and the coaching staff.

He felt uncharacteristically distant early on, but now he feels like himself again.

"I couldn't wait to get back," he said. "The normalcy has already helped."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.