July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Hornets, Grizzlies team up to fight ALS


Brad Bournival

The Gazette

GRANGER TWP. — The disease former New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig brought to the forefront in America is one the communities of Highland and Wadsworth hope to help end.

ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, is a disease that affects five in every 100,000 people worldwide.

It affected former educator, current umpire and Medina County Sports Hall of Fame Al Thomas Award recipient Bruce Lorincz when he lost his mother-in-law to the disease last summer. Highland baseball coach Jay Grissom lost his aunt to ALS in 1999. So when Lorincz approached Wadsworth baseball coach Greg Pickard and later Grissom with the idea of having a benefit game to raise money and awareness for the disease, the choice was easy.

“I was excited,” Grissom said. “We’ve been looking to do something along these lines with the team, whether it’s a benefit game or something else. This is near and dear to my heart. My aunt graduated from Highland, so it’s one of those small world things.”

The game between the Grizzlies and Hornets will be played at Highland on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. but it’s something much bigger than baseball.

“Anything we can do to raise awareness for ALS is something we’d love to be a part of,” Pickard said. “With this disease, it’s known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and he’s obviously one of the best baseball players of all-time.

“It’s something where you can show the kids it’s bigger than the game. To be a part of this, especially for the first time, we’re all for it. We’re two tight-knit communities and the rivalry has grown in all sports, so to do this with Highland will make it a special event.”

That’s what Lorincz was hoping for when he approached the two with the idea of holding the event. So far, the reaction has been fantastic.

“Sometimes student-athletes underestimate what they can do for the community and the Ohio High School Athletic Association really encourages what you can do to give back,” Lorincz said. “Certainly, there are a lot of things they can do. I’m really hoping the kids take it seriously.”

That hasn’t been an issue, as each school is doing everything it can to promote the game. It’s also something the two are hoping can become an annual event that rotates between the two schools.

“It’s something we’d like to keep going,” Grissom said. “I would love to rotate it between schools. That’s the thing that excites me the most. It’s a way to share my life experiences and show them we can do a lot of good things and help people. We can do that with the game of baseball or without the game baseball.

“Everyone feels good when they’re a part of this. One thing that gets lost is you play these rivalries, but they’re a team just like us. They have the same problems as us. They’re 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year-old boys. It’ll give us a chance to know them better. In a game where you’re competing against each other, you’re also working with each other for a good cause.”

This year, donations will be taken at the game, but in the future Lorincz and both coaches hinted at possibly having 50/50 raffles and auctions to help the cause as well.

For more information or to make a donation, contact the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter at (216) 592-2572 or by mail at 6155 Rockside Road, Independence, Ohio, 44131.

Contact Brad Bournival at sports@medina-gazette.com.