By NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — Jim Poole describes the past year almost neutrally, even if the effects of ALS on the former reliever are anything but.
“I will say a downward spiral, but not in a negative way. I’m not sad, or “woe to me”. That’s how it is,” the 56-year-old said. “When I was diagnosed I could still walk, my left arm was still working, I could talk well. In 11 months, (I am) in a wheelchair and I adapt. That’s the main word it’s all about, adapting and appreciating all that I can accomplish in a given day.
Poole was at Camden Yards on Thursday night for Lou Gehrig Day, when baseball celebrates the life and legacy of the Yankees Hall of Famer, who died June 2, 1941, of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Poole’s son Hayden threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Baltimore Orioles took on Seattle.
Around the league, players and umpires wore red 4-ALS stripes. New York slugger Aaron Judge had Gehrig’s No. 4 on his cleats, and the Yankees welcomed several people living with ALS, as well as family and friends of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder Pat Quinn.
New York asked Maria Cooper Janis, daughter of actor Gary Cooper, to throw the first pitch. Cooper portrayed Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees”. A video chronicling the impact of the disease played on the video board in center field, and Angels star Mike Trout stood along the third base line to watch a clip of Gehrig’s speech “Luckiest Man”.
“Obviously Lou Gehrig is one of the greatest players of all time, but obviously synonymous with this disease,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. raise awareness, that we can make progress.
In Toronto, where the Blue Jays took on the Chicago White Sox, the CN Tower lit up purple to mark the day. The Tampa Bay Rays, who played in Texas, remember Paul Kirsch, their former senior scouting supervisor. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2018 and died aged 65 in September from a COVID-19 infection.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard, whose father Jim died of ALS in September, started the Team Hilliard Foundation to help fund ALS research.
“I still think people don’t fully understand the details of the disease, how horrible it can be and how it affects families. It’s basically a death sentence when people are diagnosed with it,” Hilliard said. “It’s an underfunded disease, and we’re trying to gain momentum to get that funding to get on the right path, the right path to find a cure.”
Poole was diagnosed about a year ago, shortly after Lou Gehrig’s first annual baseball day.
“I wasn’t diagnosed until two weeks later, but by then I pretty much knew where we were going,” Poole said. “It almost seemed like a coincidence last year. … Now it’s ingrained in my life, my family’s life. I was happy when MLB did it last year. Obviously, I appreciate even more that MLB and the clubs have stepped up and tried to find a way to get enough people on board, and maybe something good will come out of it sooner rather than later.
Poole pitched for eight major league teams from 1990 to 2000, including the Orioles from 1991 to 1994. The left-hander’s old ballpark is a bit different from where he pitched; the left-field wall was pushed back and expanded this year.
“I don’t know if it would have contained some of the circuits that I gave up,” Poole joked. “But (Mike) Mussina might have won a few more games.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.