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Some of North County’ most famous sports figures were on hand as the Padres celebrated Lou Gehrig Day on Monday and raised funds to fight ALS. From left: Carlsbad’s Rod Laver and Fred Lynn and Rancho Santa Fe’s Steve Fisher. Fisher threw out out the first pitch. Photo by Jay Paris
Some of North County’ most famous sports figures were on hand as the Padres celebrated Lou Gehrig Day on Monday and raised funds to fight ALS. From left: Carlsbad’s Rod Laver and Fred Lynn and Rancho Santa Fe’s Steve Fisher. Fisher threw out out the first pitch. Photo by Jay Paris
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North County pitches in to fight ALS

Steve Fisher’s first pitch, and his message, landed for strikes at Monday’s Padres game.

“It’s great that baseball is jumping in and getting behind this,” said Fisher, the retired San Diego State basketball coach. “We need money and awareness and this creates both.”

Fisher was tipping his cap to Major League Baseball for its second Lou Gehrig Day, which not only celebrates the former New York Yankee great, but takes aim at the disease that struck him: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“He is intertwined with ALS,” said Fisher, a Rancho Santa Fe resident.

Fisher is as well.

Escondido’s Mark Fisher, his son and an assistant SDSU basketball coach, has fought ALS since 2011. The disease attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and leaves patients struggling with their muscle control.

So MLB decided to turn Lou Gehrig Day into a giant fundraiser. That had Fisher climbing atop the Petco Park mound, where he all but shouted from the mountaintop.

“There are a combination of things you need money for,” he said. “You need it for research, No. 1, so we can find a cure. Then you need it for patient care.”

Steve Becvar agreed. Becvar, of Valley Center, is with the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter and he rattles off where his organization provides aid.

“Getting them equipment is the biggest thing,” he said. “Whether that is a wheelchair ramp at home, a walking cane, a power wheelchair or whatever they need. It doesn’t cost the family a penny as we support them through their journey.”

Pennies from heaven would be nice, but Becvar’s group pounds the pavement to raise dough. It’s estimated that an ALS patient’s medical cost can approach $250,000 annually, so the need for funds is real.

Among Becvar’s endeavors is pairing those loving golf and hating ALS. He connects donors with ex-MLB players and they play golf at an exclusive club.

The contributor gets to be a member for a day while creating a memory of a lifetime.

Solana Beach’s Charles Nagy, who pitched for 14 seasons, is hosting someone with a big heart at the Rancho Santa Fe Country Club.

“ALS has touched my life a few times so I jumped at the chance,” Nagy said. “I’m grateful that baseball is getting behind this to raise funds.”

Raise your right hand if you want to master the medical mystery that is ALS, which doesn’t have a known cause and, yet, a cure. That has Fisher pitching in, Nagy pitching for greens with a new friend and everyone thinking of Lou Gehrig’s iconic speech.

The indestructible Gehrig, who played in 2,130 consecutive games, was forced to retire because of ALS but not before reminding a grieving nation that he was the “luckiest guy on the face of the earth.”

Fate has dealt those with ALS a bum hand. But that doesn’t mean it will always be this way.

“Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with ALS and every 90 minutes someone loses their battle to this fatal disease,” Becvar said. “Together and by teaming up, we’re going to create a world without ALS.”

That has Fisher winding up his right arm and he looks to punch out ALS. It’s a tall task, but Fisher has been in tight spots before.

“I’m a former high school driver’s education teacher,” Fisher said, with a grin. “So I know what it’s like to change lanes in heavy traffic.”

For those with ALS and in a jam, Monday’s event made their path that much smoother.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports

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