By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
OK, let’s address the elephant in the room. Long time North Texas Amateur Baseball League dynamic architect, manager and compatriot Joe Daniels has ALS. Yes, Lou Gehrig Disease. Last September Joe started losing muscle in his left hand and can no longer use his left arm. Joe’s throat is becoming more constricted and his legs are failing him. “I walk like Frankenstein and I hug the wall because I am scared to death of falling,” explain Daniels. “If I fell I wouldn’t be able to catch myself. I can peck a little on the keyboard and move the mouse with my right hand but I don’t have the muscle to catch a falling body. I can’t even feed myself.”
Joe has been to multiple doctors and therapists and is actively pursuing stem cell treatment to try to find something that may turn the corner for him, both in pain and his ability to function. Stem Cell treatment, however, is not covered by insurance. I asked Joe the obvious question when we were discussing his walking scenario: what about a wheel chair or motorized vehicle of some sort? His response was a true ‘spit in your eye’ rebuttal. “That’s giving up! I haven’t given up and will continue to try everything I can to fight this off. Maybe we can find a cure some day. I’ll just have to keep trying but I will never give up.”
When Joe and I started this discussion I ensured him that this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ article and that we are going to focus on his MSBL achievements throughout the years, which is why MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler has inducted Joe into the 2017 class of the MSBL National Hall of Fame.
“It is not very often you can read of a man’s strength which is not determined by the amount of “reps” he can do,” explained Steve Sigler. “It is the strength to face each day with a positive attitude, knowing a disease is actively at work inside you. Safes/outs/errors etc. mean much less. I applaud you, Joe Daniels, and say thank you for the many years of support and contribution to North Texas MSBL. You will leave a legacy!”
So from here forward in this small slice of Joe’s life you will not hear anything more about the 2017 Joe. Let me switch gears and explain why Joe has been inducted.
Joe and his wife Connie live in Rockwall, Texas and have been married for 28 years. They have a daughter, Ashley who has been instrumental in coordinating a normal life for dad as well as his biggest cheerleader and fund raiser. Joe is 60 years old and has been working for the same tech company for 21 years and continues to work from home by utilizing a voice activated computer. So what about his baseball roots and how did he become involved with MSBL?
“I was usually a bench warmer as a player so I saw that my strength was in spotting and recruiting good talent and managing players. I started that process in 1975 in a rival league and then became involved in Dallas with MSBL in 1989, thanks to Sam Kayea. MSBL became so dominant that the other league folded shortly thereafter.”
This managerial commitment continued until 1998 and then Joe took a year off. In 2000 he attended a tryout for the MSBL’s North Texas League along with MSBL pal Sam Kayea. They saw some pretty good talent out there and thought about starting a team together. “Sam and I gave it a shot in 2000 solely from guys from the tryouts and we had a ball doing it. That was my last year managing on the field. I got kicked ‘upstairs’ in the league and helped in the administrative side.”
Former North Texas league president Gerry Mecca had this to say about Joe’s contribution: “Joe moved the league out of the dark ages of paper forms, clumsy schedules and bounced checks and into the digital world, long before websites and ecommerce were cool. He laid the foundation of what is now arguably the most technologically innovative and digitally operated leagues in the nation. He pushed for digital conversion for the league so that everything could be handled on line: payments, notifications, stats, etc. He did this in the 90’s before anyone was thinking about it. It was a tremendous breakthrough for the league.”
Mecca continued, “After establishing the leagues web presence he went on to formulate the leagues financial and budgeting model and of course, accept credit cards. Joe also helped foster the philanthropic vein of the league, holding the first Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children charity golf outing awards on his home course and awards banquet at this home. The TSRHC relationship has endured for over 15 years. Though retired in 2010, Joe embodies the entirety of the MSBL journey from player to manager, from manager to league officer and from officer to board service.”
Joe was inducted into the MSBL Hall of Fame on July 30th at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Dallas, home of the Rangers AA team. The announcement was during their annual All-Star game festivities, so Joe thought it was just another day at the ballpark until he saw family and old friends hovering nearby. “I knew something was up but I didn’t know it was me. Then they read a letter that Steve Sigler sent for me and I got very emotional. It was a wonderful surprise and honor.”
Just this past weekend the actual MSBL Hall of Fame trophy arrived and good buddy Sam Kayea was there to present it to Joe and the family during another fund raiser to help with Joe’s mounting medical expenses. “You do everything for the league while you are active, you don’t go through all of that just to be recognized. Your goal is to make the league better. Day to day recognition doesn’t cross your mind, so to be recognized was a great honor and a wonderful feeling. Many old teammates showed up from the league in years past. It was overwhelming. My heartfelt thanks go out to Sam Kayea, Gerry Mecca and Steve Sigler and MSBL for making this award so special.”
So many times we rightfully recognize the players who have excelled on the field or those who have organized busloads of teams to participate in our national tournaments. To honor Joe as a league mechanic and data specialist is a testament to his love of the game and the league without driving in a single run. Congratulations, Joe.
Daughter Ashley set up a page where you can buy an official ‘Joe Strikes Out ALS’ t-shirt that she designed for dad. All proceeds after the cost of the shirt help fight Joe’s medical expenses. Here is the link: http://www.customink.com/fundraising/joestrikesoutals