By Karen Cornelius
Even though they were rivals on a double-header on Saturday, April 22, the Vermilion Sailors and the Bay Village Rockets came together to dedicate the baseball events of the day to “Playing Harball Against ALS” (PHAALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Gehrig was a Hall of Fame baseball player for the New York Yankees who passed away from ALS. The teams also honored Vermilion resident Dennis Phillips who was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2016 with the PHAALS Foundation “Legends” Hall of Fame award.
The PHAALS Foundation mission is to help in the fight to cure and treat ALS through research, awareness and financial assistance to those stricken with ALS, to assist families stricken with ALS by physical, emotional, and financial support through fundraising events, public service, and local, state, and national awareness events. The local baseball event was supported by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association as its philanthropic endeavor for the past five years.
All four teams from Vermilion and Bay Village, JV and varsity, wore PHAALS Foundation t-shirts which were purchased as a $900 donation to the foundation from the Vermilion Athletic Boosters and the Bay Athletic Boosters. During that day’s games, there were jars at the concession stand to donate to this cause.
There was additionally a ceremony during the first and second varisty baseball games to honor Vermilion resident Dennis Phillips by presenting him with a plaque from the foundation introducing him into the “Legends” Hall of Fame. The PHAALS Foundation Hall of Fame honors men and women who have been diagnosed with ALS by providing a Hall of Fame “Legends” program.
The 2017 recipient, Phillips, was born in Lorain in 1960, graduated from Vermilion High School in 1979, and worked at Lithonia in various positions before leaving the company. He started working with Dick West Plumbing and continued in the HVAC industry before finally starting his own business, Arctic Heating & Cooling with his wife in 1996. Recently, Arctic Heating & Cooling was presented with the Armstrong 2016 Outstanding Sales Performance in the Northern District.
Phillips is the father of Luriene West, Amber Barton, and Bridget Triana. He has eight grandchildren and will be adding another one this summer to finish off his own baseball team. In August of 2016, Phillips was officially dianosed with ALS and is working with the doctors to stabilize the progression.
At the April 22 baseball games, two of Phillips’ grandsons also honored him by throwing out the first pitch. Both these young men are athletes at Vermilion High School. One, Hunter Harrison plays baseball and the second, Layne German is a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball, and track for the Sailors.
The hero of the day, Phillips, enjoys hanging out with his grandchildren, listening to rock music, riding his 4-wheeler, and has recently gone sky diving.
At the event, there was further a moment of silence to remember three people who were inducted into the “Legends” program. In 2013, the long-time scorekeeper from Western Reserve High School; in 2014, Brian Stuckey; and in 2015, former Vermilion teacher Tom Stallings.
At the PHAALS Foundation games, Vermilion High Varsity Sailors swept the day with a 3-2 win over Bay in game #1, and a 5-0 score in game #2. The Sailors are now 14-3 overall and 6-1 in the Sandusky Bay Conference as of April 22.