Marlins Pitcher Aims to End ALS While Father Fights Devastating Disease

Nearly a decade ago, Tommy Nance received the news no kid wants to hear

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

On Thursday, the Miami Marlins participated in the league’s ALS Day, dedicated to raising awareness to those battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The team took it a step further, by gifting a motorized wheelchair to Carlos Mota, a fan who is currently batting the disease.

ALS is something that Marlins pitcher Tommy Nance knows all too well.

“My dad was diagnosed with ALS coming up on eight years now, so it’s a really special day for me and my family and I know it’s a special day for hopefully more and more families out there now that we’re bringing more awareness to it,” Nance said. 

Nearly a decade ago, Nance received the news no kid wants to hear. His father, Mark was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

There is no cure, and the average life expectancy is two to five years.

“I think it’s a disease that doesn’t get talked about enough, so we all think it’s never gonna affect us, or maybe we’ve never heard of it before, until it does,” said Nance. “My whole life he’s been my biggest fan. Like he was my coach in little league, all through high school and college he was constantly in my ear trying to help me and guide me in any way that he could. The fact that he’s been fighting this disease for eight years is definitely an inspiration.”

Seeing firsthand how difficult ALS can be, Nance wanted to do more than sit on the sidelines. So, he joined the ALS Committee and even working with the Marquee Sports Network in his rookie season with the Cubs to promote Project Main Street, a cause dedicated to helping improve the life of those living with ALS.

He brought that same energy to Miami, participating in the team’s wheelchair giveaway prior to Thursday’s game.

“Again, just another way I can jump in. I’m okay having my face out there for it. I know for a long time I didn’t want to talk about it and my dad didn’t want to talk about it, but I think we’ve kind of grown in that we can hopefully help other people,” he said.

“Obviously it’s a personal situation for him, so it’s always good when guys are willing to speak up and use their platform not only awareness, but even money to the situation where people know about it,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “Sometimes I think we get – obviously, ALS has been around a while and it’s something that you just get and there’s other things that are more fashionable or whatever. But I think it’s always good that guys have personal feelings about things are able to talk about it and continue to put awareness out there.”

Whether he’s delivering strikeouts on the mound or finding new ways to help the ALS community, Nance recognizes the impact his father has had on his game and hopes to make that same impact on those battling the disease.

“There’s a lot more important things going on outside the field, so if you kind of humble yourself and think of those things while you’re out there,” said Nance. “Maybe you have a bad day, but it’s not as bad as what some people are going through on a day-to-day basis. It really helps ground you. He’s constantly with me every time I’m out there.”

Nance has appeared in nine games for the Marlins, tossing 16 strikeouts through 11.2 innings pitched.

Contact Us