Lou Gehrig Day goes worldwide as UK's Herts Baseball Club hosts benefit day

May 31st, 2024
Design by Tom Forget.

It's been 85 years since Lou Gehrig last lined up for the Yankees, but he remains a hero for the skill he demonstrated on the ballfield and the grace and courage he displayed as he battled ALS, which more often bears his name. And just as baseball knows no borders, unfortunately, the disease doesn't either, with more than 200,000 people around the globe stricken with the disease.

Just as Major League teams look to celebrate Gehrig's legacy and help those with ALS on Sunday, June 2, the Herts Baseball Club, based at Grovehill in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire -- about an hour's drive from London -- is doing the same. The team, which plays in the Double-A division of the British Baseball Federation, will have baseball activities for fans, a charity raffle with prizes supplied by MLB Europe, The 108 and Baseball Outlet, a bake sale and an American-themed barbecue in hopes of raising money for the UK charity, The Motor Neurone Disease Association.

"I think we're seeing after the [World Baseball Classic] and with the London Series happening in a couple of weeks, baseball is becoming a much more international thing," Pete Hogg, Herts' utility ballplayer who also organized the event, told MLB.com. "I just got back from Japan last month and I took in a game at the Tokyo Dome there, which was awesome. It's an international sport, so let's make Lou Gehrig Day international, too."

Herts Baseball Club's Lou Gehrig Day flyer.

Hogg's baseball bonafides go way beyond the history of this Herts club, which was founded in 1996. His father was the manager of the Hemel Red Sox in the '80s and '90s before it folded and was eventually reborn as the current team. Now, they're one of the largest clubs in the country, with up to six adult clubs playing at various levels along with youth teams and Little League, too.

But with baseball still a bit under the radar in England -- "Even today, whenever I say, 'I play baseball,' people are like, 'There's baseball in the UK?'" Hogg joked -- it's the close-knit community of players and fans that will make an event like Sunday's work.

"Everybody from around the the whole club is is getting involved with the fundraising efforts. So we've got people who are volunteering from all parts of the organization coming along to run the side events. We're going to have someone who is bringing the speed gun and we're going to do pitching competitions. We're going to get the tees out for some kids playing T-ball among various other things," Hogg said.

Pete Hogg, right, with his brother.

The event is a personal one for Hogg, who admits that the charity and illness is "close to my heart."

"I have people that I know who've suffered with [ALS], so maybe that's a reason why I've instigated this event," Hogg said. "It really feels like bringing together two things I care a great deal about in baseball and fighting ALS. The club has absolutely jumped on board with this and gone, 'This is a great idea.'"

The home of Herts Baseball Club in Hemel Hempstead.

In addition to the ballpark food and baseball activities, there will also be the Ice Bucket Challenge, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

"I'm speaking to the charity and we're having somebody come down to throw the first pitch," Hogg said. "So, we're gonna bring the bucket back out. We've got some buckets and some ice coming in."

While Hogg admits that he doesn't know how many people are going to come out this year -- making a catering order a difficult task -- he has high hopes for the future of the event. Donations have already begun rolling in and he's sure that the baseball community will step up when first pitch rolls around on Sunday. (For those who can't attend on Sunday, you can make a donation here.)

"It's not just about making this a one-off event for me," Hogg said. "Lou Gehrig Day is becoming a regular annual occurrence in the baseball calendar, so's let's do this every year. Let's see how many other clubs in the in the UK we can get to do it. Do this with us, and let's try to spread this into the full international baseball scene."