Strike Out ALS swings in support
May 10, 2022
Achieving victories in spite of loss
Around two and a half years ago, following leg numbness of his wife Lynn, Gino Giovannelli said after the process of elimination, Lynn’s diagnosis only had one result— ALS.
“We weren’t sure what it was really and we looked at it, it could have been one of 50 things and you slowly check one thing off after another,” Gino Giovannelli said. “Unfortunately, the only thing left on the sheet when we were done checking things off was the worst thing on the sheet and that’s ALS.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cords. Former New York Yankees player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with the disease, and the nickname “Lou Gehrig’s disease” is commonly used to refer to the disease.
Gino Giovannelli, father of junior baseball player Stefano Giovannelli, said following the diagnosis, the family was in distress, and the Park community came together to support the family through tough times.
“Ever since the diagnosis, we were devastated. We needed help as a family, and families showed up at our house and visited and brought meals,” Gino Giovannelli said.
According to head coach Brian Kelly, the month of May is ALS awareness month, and in Major League Baseball [MLB], ALS day is celebrated amongst the league.
“The month of May is ALS awareness month from Lou Gehrig, so they have a big ALS day in Major League Baseball,” Kelly said. “Major League Baseball partners with all sorts of high school youth programs, college programs around the country that want to have an ALS night.”
After hearing about the Twins’ Lou Gehrig day, Gino Giovannelli said he was inspired to bring the concept to the Park community.
“Last year, the Twins did Lou Gehrig day at a major league baseball level, so we took some of the ideas that they had and took it to a high school level,” Gino Giovannelli said. “We had contests, we had prizes, we had games, we had T-shirts, we had hotdogs, all those kinds of things, to make it a fun event for families to get together.”
It’s bigger than baseball; coming together for a cause
Kelly said the community came together last year to recreate the event, and was a positive note for those close to the team.
“Since we were affected by ALS with Stefano’s (Giovannelli) mom, they got a big group together last year to put this together and we made it an annual thing because it’s so close to our hearts,” Kelly said.
Following the Strike Out ALS game May 4, Lynn Giovannelli said she was thankful for the opportunity to have the Park community rally together and shed light on the cause. Strike Out ALS is a concept in which games and community events are held to raise fundings for ALS research.
“I feel so humbled, and so grateful and kind of overwhelmed because I know that it’s not just about me. It’s about ALS. It’s about the St. Louis Park community,” Lynn Giovannelli said. “St. Louis Park is such a strong community, and it just feels great to have people gathered for something good. Our world is hungry for good news, and even though ALS is bad news, when the community comes together, that’s good.”
Gino Giovannelli said the event highlights the community’s unwavering support to help others persevere through adversity.
“There’s people in our community that are going through things like this and it’s key for us to stop what we’re doing and take a moment to acknowledge that some people are in tough shape,” Gino Giovannelli said. “When you deal with that at a community level, it makes it all the sweeter. Everybody had a good time today and even though we lost, it’s a happy day that we can celebrate even in our toughest of times.”
Despite the 5-2 loss to Chaska, senior Jacob Favour said the event brought people together in good spirits.
“We have this whole community that knows about us and is here to support us, so that’s something we can definitely use coming up even at away games,” Favour said.
For junior Stefano Giovannelli, having the baseball team coming together in the spirit of camaraderie carries weight.
“This many people coming out means a lot and to see people participate in the chuck-a-ball and all that stuff, I would definitely say my team having my back the whole game just means a lot,” Stefano Giovannelli said.
Kelly said although the team was defeated by Chaska, the event as a whole should be deemed as a learning experience for the community.
“Today’s bigger than baseball,” Kelly said. “Today’s more about the community and although it would have been great to have a win, coming up short is a life lesson you learn.”