Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Phillies Phestival backs fight against ALS

Nola, teammates, alumni create special day for fans, those battling disease
MLB.com

Lines of people serpentined through the seats of Citizens Bank Park on Thursday evening, while loyal fans waited for their turn for a one-on-one moment with the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro and several other former and current Phillies players.

The Phillies Phestival, though, was about much more than finally getting a favorite player's autograph.

Lines of people serpentined through the seats of Citizens Bank Park on Thursday evening, while loyal fans waited for their turn for a one-on-one moment with the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro and several other former and current Phillies players.

The Phillies Phestival, though, was about much more than finally getting a favorite player's autograph.

"As much money we can raise the better," said Phillies ace Aaron Nola.

Proceeds from the annual event benefit the ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, where the money will be used for patient services and research of the disease for which there is no known cause or cure. It's all part of the Phillies' effort to "#StrikeOutALS." Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a deadly neuromuscular disease that progressively deteriorates physical functions.

ALS is a cause that Nola is especially passionate about. His uncle Allen was diagnosed with ALS a few years back. And with the Phillies so involved in helping fight the disease, Nola has noticed something that defines most PALS (people with ALS).

"They're super positive and their attitude is really good," Nola said. "I think with a disease like ALS you have to have a good attitude. That's what they preach."

For Nola and his teammates, that can help them look at life in a different light.

"Sometimes we take life for granted," Nola said. "Coming over here and really seeing these PALS and walk around and communicate with them really puts life into perspective."

Christine Moretti, one of the PALS in attendance, was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a rare form of ALS, in 2016. Thursday marked her second time at the Phillies Phestival. Aside from the "oh my gosh" factor of Phillies players actually wanting to talk to her -- like when John Kruk hugged her son, Jeremy, last year after learning he was Jeremy's favorite player growing up -- she's loved interacting with other PALS.

At the close of Wednesday's festivities, Moretti and other PALS in attendance filled a room within the basement of Citizens Bank Park to mingle with each other and the current Phillies players. It didn't make for a bad photo opp, either.

"We're so joined together in this disease," Moretti said. "You look beyond it and you're just friends with everybody. We're all there for each other."

Earlier, fans attending the Phestival enjoyed autograph sessions throughout the ballpark. A silent auction offered a chance to take home tons of different baseball- and Phillies-themed items, like a bobblehead collection, game-worn memorabilia or even a seat from Citizens Bank Park. The "Every Roll's a Winner" dice game guaranteed every participant went home with a prize.

Near the left-field gate, significant others of Phillies players handed out grab bags -- Phestival-decorated backpacks filled with a mystery prize, such as a T-shirt or, for the lucky, a limited-edition Charlie Manuel bobblehead.

Kiyomi Locker, fiancee of Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios, was among those passing out the grab bags. As a native of the Philadelphia region, she has fond memories of attending the Phestival as a kid, such as taking a photo with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt or finding a signed Cole Hamels jersey in a grab bag of her own.

Now on the other side of the event, she's realized what it's all about.

"This event is so important just because I think it brings awareness for Lou Gehrig's disease and just everything that these people go through," Locker said. "... I'm always amazed by how courageous and passionate [families affected by ALS] are for the cause and for taking care of the people who need help."

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola