'100 Innings' supports ALS patients
Walter Bentson did not get much sympathy when he started to show signs of slowing down. As a competitive athlete in his mid-40s, his peers thought it was about time his age caught up to him. A few months later he was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), in the same family as ALS, a progressive, fatal, neurodegenerative condition otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Fortunately for Bentson, his PLS diagnosis has progressed much slower than the ALS counterpart.
While the disease has slowed him down, it has not completely controlled him. The average ALS patient lives three-to-five years after diagnosis. Bentson is going on 13 years in January. "I still have it probably as easy as anyone. I walk with a cane. I work full time. I am still far better off than most of the patients who are in the clinic, so I need to be their voice. And if we can do anything that can help them, I try to make sure we get it done," he says.
The former interscholastic, collegiate and amateur baseball umpire will call balls and strikes for three batters as part of the 100 Innings of Baseball Spectacular at midnight on Oct. 8. Proceeds from the eighth annual event, which boasts 100 straight innings of baseball and lasts approximately 33 consecutive hours, will support the ALS Clinic at BIDMC, where he continues his fight against the debilitating disease. Benston has teamed up with BIDMC's Grateful Nation program to help support and coordinate the fundraising effort. (See details below for information on how to support or take part in 100 Innings of Baseball at Adams Field in Quincy.)
The 100 Innings of Baseball Spectacular was developed in 2004 by the Boston Men's Baseball League in coordination with former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and his charity, Curt's Pitch for ALS. The event has raised $488,000 for ALS. "It's a group of guys playing a game, raising some money, and at the end of the day if you pick up some money for ALS, it's all worth it," Bentson says.
Bentson is a major supporter of ALS treatment and care at BIDMC and is the reason the game will benefit BIDMC's ALS Clinic for the first time this year. He started the Bentson Scholarship Fund in 2006 to ease the cost of higher education for children of patients with ALS; a lunch support group, Clinic Connections, for patients and caregivers to take a break from a grueling appointment day schedule; and a hotel accommodation program to help patients who travel long distances to BIDMC for appointments. The former Boston College athlete is hoping funds raised from the 100 Inning game will support state-of-the-art equipment, administrative help, and social programs in the clinic.
Walter is no longer an active umpire due to his physical limitations caused by primary lateral sclerosis, but he is still very much involved in baseball as the president of Boston Park League and umpire chief for amateur leagues in Boston, managing more than 400 umpires in the region. He has been a regular participant in the 100 Innings game since 2006 when he officiated 62 innings of the 100 Innings game.
The eighth annual 100 Innings of Baseball Spectacular will begin on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 9 a.m., at Adams Field in Quincy. The event will continue for more than 30 hours, ending Sunday afternoon. Registration is underway for baseball players ages 18 and above to play one inning or all 100 to support patients with both PLS and ALS. The cost to play is $40, payable at the field, and all spectators are welcome! A minimum donation of $60 will also be collected at the field. For more information or to register, visit www.bostonbaseball.com/100innings.php. To make a donation, visit http://www.gratefulnation.org/100innings..