Greg Heydet shares his story about his battle with ALS and the importance of softball in his fight against the fatal disease. (Cover photo provided courtesy of Cindy Hanson with remaining photos provided by Greg Heydet.)
Greg Heydet faces a daily battle with ALS, but that has not diminished his love of the game of softball. And when CB South coach Kevin Rosini lost his assistant after the 2019 season, the position was opened, and Heydet applied.
“I had never met him before the day I interviewed him, and you could tell right from the get go the knowledge he had of the game, especially the pitching part of it, which is something we needed,” Rosini said. “With Kylie Kenney graduating, we had a bunch of new pitchers, and I thought he would be the perfect fit.”
Last year’s spring season was lost to COVID-19, but Heydet returned this season, which included a temporary setback.
“It was that windy Friday – the wind was up to 50 miles an hour, and I was leaving practice,” Heydet said. “I put my walker in the truck, and the wind blew my door closed and knocked me over.”
Not even five broken ribs as a result of that fall could keep Heydet down.
“I was back four days later,” he said. “Even my wife was mad, but I said, ‘I need to get out there. Softball is a medicine to me, and the players too.’”
Although he has limitations, Heydet has found ways to contribute.
“Walking – now my balance is bad,” he said. “I can’t demonstrate too much because of mobility, but I see things, and I pull them aside and tell them what they have to do. It’s not a handicap because I’m still here.”
Heydet was an elite softball pitcher prior to his diagnosis with ALS, boasting a fastball clocked at 70 miles an hour during his heyday.
“I showed the team my fast pitch tattoo,” he said. “I told them I got that 30 years ago.
“I would give anything to pitch one more day.”
Heydet isn’t pitching, but he’s still on the sidelines 12 years after he was diagnosed with the fatal disease, a remarkable testament to his love of the game and an inspiration to all who know him.
CB South coach Kevin Rosini says: “His love of the game – I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s there 30 minutes before we are. He’s working with the kids, working with pitchers non-stop. He encourages all the players. His love for every ounce of the game – I don’t know anybody else like him. He’s mentioned to me that the game is what keeps him motivated and moving. I didn’t realize until last season – the shortened version of it – how long he’s been living with this. It amazes me every day that he has the desire to be there. There are lots of us who have been in the game a long time too, and you wonder when that desire eventually subsides. Not him. That alone amazes me every day.
“He goes through a lot every day just to get to the field for practice and games. Just the enthusiasm he shows throughout the game and just everything – it’s been an up and down season for us, but he’s always there encouraging and helping and saying what he needs to say. I know he has helped our pitchers immensely. It’s been great. I hope he feels in some small way our program is helping him. He’s part of our program, he’s just Greg, and he’s been a good part of our program all season long.”
SOFTBALL BRINGS EXCITEMENT & INSPIRATION
(Greg Heydet’s story in his own words)
A year ago in March, COVID-19 shut down all spring sports. And this spring with the return of softball, the excitement is back. The sounds from team’s unity, the fans cheering, the crack of the bat as well as the smell of the grass are back. It’s all back! But there is also an inspiration to the game that this coach brings, and he puts softball ahead of his illness. There are battles in this league that everyone has looked forward to seeing, but coach Greg Heydet faces a battle every day that he cannot win, but it’s making him look superhuman.
Greg was a men’s fast pitch softball pitcher for 30 years until something started happening to his body. He started to become weaker, and through many tests, in October 2009, he was diagnosed with a fatal disease. It was ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which finally results in paralysis and death.
ALS is a fatal, heartbreaking and expensive disease where most patients die within five years. Greg feels he is truly blessed to still be here after 12 years. He gives credit for his journey to family, friends, Faith, his regimen and SOFTBALL. Once diagnosed, he put his uncertain life into the game that he loved so much. He immediately started coaching travel softball in 2009. In 2014, he got the chance to coach high school softball. “I felt energy in my body,” he said. From 2014-17 he was the varsity head coach at CR South. In 2018, he was an assistant varsity coach under Ellie White at Abington, and this is his second year as an assistant varsity coach under Kevin Rosini at CB South. You will see him with his walker, but he will never ask for help because he chooses not to give up.
Outside of softball, Greg spends most of his time advocating and bringing awareness to the world about ALS. He visits other ALS patients to give them information about the disease, and seeing him gives patients hope with his existence. He visits Washington DC to fight for access to FDA treatments. “The battles on the field are what give me strength to fight my battle,” he said. “I thank you all for that!”
So to all the teams out there, “let’s play ball” and to everyone who has a condition or fatal disease, “never give up!”