Nineteen years ago I was exposed to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I am excited beyond belief that on July 4, 2009, Major League Baseball will finally honor a man who gave so much, all really, of himself to the game and its fans.
I remember the day I met Dick Bergeron like it was yesterday. I was with the Philadelphia Phillies at the time, and we had a meeting one day with a representative from The ALS Association to coordinate the annual Phillies Festival. I was in awe of the courage that Dick showed in the face of his disease, and so my wife Shonda and I found something to commit ourselves to: the ALS cause.
Everything happens for a reason, the Lord does work in mysterious ways. I had always been bothered by the fact that ALS was not even on Major League Baseball’s radar as something to work to fight or raise awareness. Little had been done in the past. But it appears to me now that that is perfectly ok and is the best possible thing that could have happened.
How is that possible you might ask?
Major League Baseball is sitting in front of more people, being seen, heard and watched by more pairs of eyes than at any time in its history. On July 4th of this year more people will receive an introduction to ALS, what it is, what it does and what it means, than on any day in the history of mankind.
For that we have Commissioner Bud Selig to thank. His eagerness to participate in the 70th anniversary of one of the five most famous speeches of all time is something people with ALS will be forever grateful.
MLB has the power to change the world when focused and delivering the right message, and I am proud to see that message being presented to the world this year.
People will learn of a man who truly was one of the few athletes in our lifetimes warranting the label Hero, Courageous and Warrior. He battled this fatal illness for at least a full year while continuing to play baseball. If that doesn’t resonate with you, I beg you to at least understand what ALS does to the human body, and mind. If you do that much you will grasp some semblance of understanding of why this man should and will be celebrated.
But most important, Lou’s legacy will live on in all of you who see it in your hearts to contribute to the research that we need to find a cure for this horrific disease and to make the lives of people with ALS just a little bit better until we find that cure.