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Phillies players, staff team up to fight ALS

At annual Phestival, Asche among those vocal in efforts to advance research

PHILADELPHIA -- After boarding a plane, Cody Asche felt afraid.

But it wasn't a fear of flying that made the Phillies left fielder uneasy. It was his imagination.

Back in November, Asche spoke at a banquet benefiting the ALS Association of Philadelphia. Driven to contribute more by what he had seen that night, Asche began brainstorming ideas on the flight home as to what more he could do for the cause. He came up with the idea to design a T-shirt and to donate the proceeds to ALS research. But the scope of that idea intimidated him.

"I was kind of too scared to do it," Asche said. "But then it came back to me, and I was like, 'You know what? Let's go for it.' I went to the Phillies and asked them, and they were beyond excited to help me with it."

Monday's events were something of a culmination of Asche's idea. The club held the Phillies Phestival, which raises money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and the entire team and coaching staff were on hand, signing autographs and participating in the festivities of the day. Asche's T-shirt, emblazoned with a Phillies logo and the moniker "Together We Fight," was among the many products sold.

On Monday, the Phillies raised a total of $786,146 in support of patients of ALS. Since the Phillies committed to battling ALS in 1984 as their primary charity, more than $16 million has been raised for patient care and services in the greater Philadelphia area.

Ellyn Phillips, the president of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the ALS Association, counted herself among the many who were impressed by Asche's generosity and drive.

"Cody came up with that shirt on his own," Phillips said. "You can't dream of going to someone and asking them to put together a shirt for us. It's amazing. I'm just thrilled."

Children and adults alike lined up throughout the concourses and club areas to meet their favorite players and coaches. There was a game for fans to play in which they could roll five dice, and depending on the sum of their roll, they could win prizes. Certain rolls could've netted fans Diamond Club tickets, game-used batting helmets, bases and lineup cards and autographed bats.

The event also included a silent auction in which fans could bid on memorabilia ranging from jerseys and balls signed by current and former Phillies stars to tickets and golf weekends.

To catcher Cameron Rupp, Phillies Phestival was more than just a fund-raiser; it was an opportunity to prove that he and his teammates are capable of being more than baseball players and giving back to the community. Rupp has a special connection to ALS, as his grandfather died of the disease when Rupp was just 3 months old. Though he never met his grandfather, Rupp carries with him the memory of his grandfather's life and the experience of having a family fight the disease.

Rupp said he and his family often imagine how things could have been if Pete Rupp were alive today, speculating that Pete would consistently be in Philadelphia to watch his grandson play and catch every other game on television. Based on the stories he's heard, Rupp only knows one way to describe the man he never got to know.

"The best [man] to ever walk this planet," Rupp said. "He always treated my grandmother with the utmost respect. I don't know enough. I wish I could sit here and talk [more] about him."

Nick Suss is an associate reporter for
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