Before driving to Oracle Park on Friday, Brandon Crawford hit retweet on a video published by MLB dedicated to researcher Sarah Langs, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2021.
Crawford doesn’t know Langs personally — although he does admire her work — but the video resonated with him. Raising awareness for ALS, known colloquially as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is an effort Crawford is proud of.
On Friday, 82 years after Lou Gehrig died of ALS, Crawford will be presented with the 2023 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in a pregame ceremony. Phi Delta Theta has presented the award to an MLB player who best exemplifies the character of Gehrig annually since 1955. The honor is maintained at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Crawford, 36, is a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and two-time World Series champion. This distinction is not like those, though.
“It’s recognizing not you necessarily as a baseball player, but what you do for the community,” Crawford said. “That’s what makes it a little bit different than any other award.”
Since 2019, Crawford has organized an annual charity golf event in which 100% of proceeds go to ALS research. The fundraising began in part because one of Crawford’s family friends, former A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty, lost his mother to the neurodegenerative disease.
The golf tournament is Crawford’s most significant charitable endeavor, but he’s also donated a couple baseball fields in the Bay Area and contributed to the Giants Community Fund. He and his wife have also donated to Buster Posey’s charity for pediatric cancer research and to Mike Yastrzesmki’s charity, he said.
After Crawford began the ALS fundraiser, he and his family made connections with people affected by the disease.
“Obviously want to find a cure for it now, even more than before,” Crawford said.
Dave Groeschner, the Giants’ senior director of athletic trainer, lost his father-in-law to ALS this year. George Brokenshire lived with ALS for about two years before passing at 70, Groeschner said.
“It was really hard on my wife,” Groeschner said. “You don’t realize how much effort goes into the caregiving, and also the diagnosis takes a long time. He was in a wheelchair for a while, then he couldn’t talk. It was emotionally stressful. You feel bad. There’s nothing you can do, just try and help them as best as they can. But it was really challenging for the immediate family, immediate caregivers, because you have to do everything for them.”
On his orange quarter zip, Groeschner’s chest displayed a sewed-on patch dedicated to Gehrig — the same one all the players will wear Friday.
“Last year and this year, (Lou Gehrig Day) means a lot more,” Groeschner said. “I have a greater appreciation for this day than I ever have, being in the big-leagues for a long time. I have a much better understanding. I’m glad they have it, and I hope they would do even more because I think since George was diagnosed, I’ve come across other people who have been affected by this more than I ever knew. I know there’s so many other diseases out there, too, but it just seems like they could be doing more as far as raising awareness, raising funds to hopefully find a cure. For this day, it’s a good day to remember our father-in-law, but also hopefully to raise as much awareness for this really shitty, awful disease.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 5,000 new patients in the United States are diagnosed with ALS every year. No one knows the cause of the disease, and there is no cure for it.
Manager Gabe Kapler wore a black t-shirt that read: END ALS 4 LOU.
“It’s very important because of who Lou Gehrig was that we continue fighting really hard for a cure,” Kapler said. “It’s surprising, to some degree, that we don’t have a cure yet. It’s not for a lack of trying. There’s people around baseball, people around the world pushing really hard for that outcome.”
After the Giants wrapped up their batting practice, the Giants’ scoreboard encouraged fans to participate in “fist bumps for ALS,” a trend started by Langs. Groeschner walked across the field to meet his wife in right-center field. In Triples Alley, the Giants were hosting an event for people whose families have been affected by ALS.
The fenced-in area was tragically full.