Senior Daniel Isufi will be honored at the start of the game on April 29 at the Dayton Dragons Stadium. Isufi, right, standing next to senior pitcher Bryce Hellgeth.
Taylor Robertson | Assistant Sports Editor
The Flyboys will be heading back to the Dragons Stadium on April 29 for a game dedicated to senior Daniel Isufi fundraising for the Lupus Foundation of America. Isufi will be honored at the start of the game by throwing the first pitch of the night.
Assistant Coach, Kyle Decker, had a huge part in setting up this fundraiser and let Isufi know back in August that since it’s his senior year, they wanted to honor him and all he has done.
The last time you may have heard about Isufi, he shared his long and complicated journey battling Lupus, an incurable autoimmune disease.
Since his diagnosis at 14-years-old, he has received multiple rounds of dialysis and two separate kidney transplants. One from his mother Pam, and another from his twin sister, Olivia.
Rather than harping on that painful experience of undergoing two major surgeries at an extremely young age, Isfui appreciates the fact that he’ll forever have a part of his sister with him.
“Knowing this kidney is from my twin sister who I share the same DNA is really cool because not a lot of people can say that,” Isufi stated.
As Isufi knocked on wood, he stated that his health has been relatively stable recently, and has had good luck at his monthly checkups. With Lupus, the ups and downs are often very unpredictable.
On top of remaining diligent with staying healthy, Isufi is a dedicated student-athlete. Isufi was recently hired as a Baseball Operations Graduate Student at VCU where he will receive his master’s in Sports Leadership.
Isufi laughed as he shared how the team joked about him leaving to work at VCU, but ultimately they are very happy for him.
“I made sure to tell them, no matter what, I’m always going to be a Flyer.” Isufi stated. “Dayton will always have a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t have been able to get that apprenticeship if it weren’t for you guys.”
The Dayton community is known to rally behind each other and that is exactly what the Dayton baseball program has done for Isufi. Isufi described the guys on the team like brothers to him.
Particularly his roommate, senior Bryce Hellgeth, has shown his support for Isufi many times throughout their lives. The two met on a little league team in 3rd grade but became close in high school when Isufi became the team manager for the baseball team.
“Daniel and I have been fortunate to share some incredible moments together, but nothing compares to the selfless acts of love I witnessed by the members of the Isufi family.” Hellgeth stated, “From surprise visits, to road-tripping away games, and even multiple kidney donations, the Isufis always find a way to support one another in the face of adversity. Being a small part of their story is an incredible honor, and it’s especially exciting now that both Daniel and Olivia are beginning to achieve the goals they set back in high school.”
Isufi shared that there have been multiple times when he was in the hospital and Hellgeth would show up to be beside him. Having a true friend to rely on in tough times while being far from your family is really a special thing to have.
“We’ve got each other’s backs and we’re going to be lifelong friends.” Isufi stated.
Fellow manager, Connor Sherwood, has been a solid friend in Isufi’s life as well. They both enjoy working together in Dayton and have spent summers together in Sherwood’s hometown working for the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Sherwood stated that if you didn’t know what Isufi was truly going through, you wouldn’t be able to tell he had Lupus.
“Daniel never lets his battles overcome him, and that’s why I enjoy working with him so much.” Sherwood stated, “I had never even known about any of it until months after meeting him. I am very proud to call him one of my closest friends as he always shows up to the field with a smile on his face and makes everyone there better every day.”
Sherwood and Isufi have extremely important roles on the team and have been described as unspoken heroes by their fellow teammates. They coordinate logistics on and off the field, ensuring the guys have everything they need.
Former Dayton Flyer and current Blue Jays Baseball Player, Riley Tirotta, stated that Isufi’s role at Dayton was just as important as anyone else’s.
“He was an essential piece to every road trip, game and practice for three years of my career at Dayton. Daniel’s character had a positive and lasting impact on all players, coaches and staff. Dayton Baseball wouldn’t be where it is today without Daniel’s contribution during his time on the team.”
This game fundraising for Lupus means a lot to the Dayton baseball community because it showcases their support for Isufi and allows his story to be heard.
Hellgeth highlighted why this game is important to the team.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to educate the community about Lupus and raise money for the cure on the eve of Lupus Awareness Day. The Isufi family embodies everything great about the University of Dayton and it’s going to be very special for them to highlight this event.”
Donating to the Lupus Foundation allows people like him to receive access to medications and life-saving treatments, spreads awareness around what Lupus survivors go through and gives nearly 200,000 people affected by this disease some hope for the future.
“I just want to thank the coaching staff for putting this event together. I’m honored and humbled that they are doing this, it’s just incredible.” Isufi stated, “It’s just amazing what this program has done for me since I’ve been here, they really have my back and they’re going to have my back for the rest of my life.”
For more information on Lupus, head to lupus.org.