ALS Night at the Ballpark to raise awareness, honor those fighting disease

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- Diamondbacks fans have a chance to support local families battling Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS,  by attending this Friday's game against the Giants.

It's ALS Night at the Ballpark and the first pitch will be thrown out by a young Valley man battling the disease.

While symptoms of ALS, which are often mild early on, generally do not develop until age 55 on average, Jase White was only 28 years old when he was diagnosed last fall.  He noticed he was losing strength in his arm. His wife urged him to go to the doctor. 

"Weakness is the first symptom, and that's kind of what I saw," Tina White explained.

ALS is a progressive and fatal motor neurone disease that weakens muscles and the respiratory system.  ALS is one of the many diseases supported by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, providing support for families and funds for research. 

"We learn every day from MDA," Tina said, explaining that they didn't know much about ALS when White was first diagnosed.

"It was a pretty devastating blow," White said of his diagnosis. "People are born with different diseases every day. ... I gave it all to God and that's when I started living a better life. I know that with people's donations and doctors and the research that they're doing, I'm pretty that they'll come up with a cure so I stay pretty positive."

"Our children, they give us the strength to get up every day," Tina said.

The couple has a strong support system in their family, their church and their friends, as well as MDA and those who support it.

White, who, while weaker than used to be, is still mobile, says he's been practicing for his time on the mound and is ready to throw out the first pitch Friday, which is ALS Night at at the Ballpark. Our Diamondbacks will take on the San Francisco Giants at 6:40 p.m.

What White really wants people to know is that ALS is not an "older person's disease."

"Everybody think is just affects an older generation of people," he said. "It affects the younger generation. It's be nice if people had more awareness how it affects families and younger families."

For tickets to ALS Night at the Ballpark, go to For every ticket sold, $5 will support MDA.

As part of the pre-game, a shortened version of Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech will be read.

Lou Gehrig's farewell speech

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

"Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

"So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for."

So does White and everyone else battling ALS.