The University of Michigan baseball team held its inaugural ALS Awareness Game on May 7 when it defeated Michigan State, 7-0, at the Wilpon Complex, home of Ray Fisher Stadium. In addition to promotional activities around the facility, both U-M and MSU wore #StrikeoutALS stickers on their batting helmets.
Showing their support for ALS Awareness, in addition to all affected by ALS, were the clinical and research teams from Michigan Medicine’s ALS Center of Excellence. Dr. Eva Feldman, director for the Center, and Dr. Stephen Goutman, clinical director for the Center, were on hand for the game. Dr. Goutman had the privilege of throwing out the first pitch.
The Michigan baseball program’s coaching staff has been significantly impacted by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. U-M Head Coach Erik Bakich and U-M Assistant Head Coach Nick Schnabel both played for East Carolina University during the 1999 and 2000 seasons under the direction of Head Coach Keith LeClair. In 2001, LeClair was diagnosed with ALS and he passed away in 2006. To honor their coach’s memory, both Bakich and Schnabel wear the number 23 jersey at U-M.
“First and foremost, I am very thankful for Coach Bakich, who requested our participation in the Strikeout ALS Game,” said Dr. Feldman, who is the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology. “In our conversation leading up to tonight, I learned that he’s very devoted to helping us understand the cause of ALS and develop new treatments. He and Coach Schnabel have a direct connection to Lou Gehrig’s disease, so they have a deep-rooted appreciation for how important it is to continually research new ways to help patients and their loved ones.”
On the airwaves, play-by-play announcer Ira Weintraub spoke to Dr. Feldman during the second inning about the challenges of ALS and how she and her staff are fighting the disease.
“I am so appreciative for the University of Michigan baseball team’s continued efforts to raise awareness for ALS,” said Goutman, who is an associate professor of neurology. “Over the past seven months they have taken part in the Hot Pepper Challenge, Mustache March and, of course, Tuesday’s Strikeout ALS Game. In addition to research and patient care, part of our mission at Michigan Medicine’s ALS Center of Excellence is to educate our community, and an event like Strikeout ALS is a terrific opportunity to do just that. I hope we can make this an annual event. Personally, I enjoyed getting to throw out the first pitch, meeting the players and spending some time with Coach Bakich, who is passionate about ALS.”
Prior to and during the game, ALS Center of Excellence staff members distributed ALS information fliers, scorecards with “Strikeout ALS” emblazoned on them and answered questions from patrons. Several people stopped by to share a story about a loved one who had been affected by ALS.