Padres honor Lou Gehrig with ALS awareness day at Petco Park


File – The sun sets as Chris Paddack #59 of the San Diego Padres pitches to Kolten Wong #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning of a baseball game at Petco Park June 29, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Padres and the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter will observe Major League Baseball’s Lou Gehrig Day Thursday at Petco Park.

The commemoration will come during a 7:10 p.m. home game against the New York Mets.

“It’s great to have baseball step up to the plate for the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day, but the Padres have embraced our chapter for the past several seasons with fantastic recognition and support,” said Steve Becvar, executive director of the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter.

“With a few simple words, Lou Gehrig inspired a nation with his courage,” Becvar continued. “We’re very grateful to everyone who joins us in our vision to create a world without ALS. Our mission is to discover treatments and a cure and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest.”

Thursday evening at Petco Park, in the main concourse area behind home plate, ALS Association officials will staff a kiosk and distribute educational information about ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurological disease named after the New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig, who set a then-record of 2,130 consecutive games played which stood for 56 years.

The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in people living with ALS weakens muscles and impacts physical function. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which usually leads to total paralysis. Life expectancy for a person with ALS is within two to five years of diagnosis of initial symptoms. There is no cure, cause or no life-prolonging treatments for the disease.

Before the Padres game, retired San Diego State University basketball coach Steve Fisher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Fisher’s son Mark, who serves in a basketball coaching role at SDSU, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

Additionally, four ALS logos will be on display to mark Gehrig’s No. 4 and Padres players, managers and coaches will wear at Lou Gehrig Day patch on uniforms.

Becvar said ALS awareness messages, including Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech, which will be shown on Petco’s video boards. A local family affected by ALS will serve as the celebrity bell-ringer of a 700-pound mission bell located down the left-field line adjacent to the Western Metal Supply Co. building.

The ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter provides a variety of services to ALS families, including medical equipment loans, referral services, support groups, education and advocacy.

Becvar said medical expenses associated with ALS can cost up to $250,000 annually. All services for patients and families are provided by the ALS chapter at no charge.

ALS officials said more than 200 San Diego and Imperial county residents are registered with the local ALS chapter.

“We’re grateful for the community’s support to the people, families, and caregivers affected by this progressive and terminal disease, which takes away the ability to walk, dress, write, speak, eat and breathe,” Becvar said. “Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with ALS, and every 90 minutes someone loses their battle to this fatal disease. Together and by teaming up, we’re going to create a world without ALS.”

MLB announced in March it would hold its first-ever Lou Gehrig Day to honor his career and to help raise funding to fight the disease. Some MLB teams marked Lou Gehrig Day on Wednesday. Teams that were off or played on the road are expected to observe Lou Gehrig Day on Thursday, while a couple of teams are planning festivities a few days later.

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