Panthers strikeout ALS

September 13, 2018

The Blue River Panthers defeated North Bend 10-2 on Monday night, but there was something much bigger happening and it involved someone close to the entire team.

If someone went to the game at David City, he or she probably noticed a majority of the fans were wearing the same shirt. The shirts read “Strike out ALS” on the front, and “Papa Jahde” on the back

Greg Jahde is the head coach of the Blue River Panthers. His father, Tom Jahde, was recently diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, according to The ALS Association.

Tom Jahde has been heavily involved with the team for the last three years of the team’s existence. After being diagnosed with ALS, the girls and their families wanted to help in any way they could.

Sierra Harrison is one of the players on the team and shared how ’Papa Jahde has had an impact on her and the group as a whole.

“He has done a lot for us,” she said. “I’ve played for three years, and he’s always been there through it all. He’s helped coach, he’s come to practices, he puts in his time, he pulls us girls aside and talks to us one-on-one and explains what we can do. After a game, he’ll give you updates on how you did and what you can improve on. He’s always been a huge deal for this team.”

It’s not just Sierra Harrison who has been influenced by Tom’s involvement. Aspyn Harrison shared many of the same thoughts.

“I’ve been playing for three years,” she said. “My freshman and sophomore year he was out on the field hitting balls to us like a coach, and it’s crazy to see how fast it (ALS) affects (people). It’s crazy. He really is a big deal to us, he’s like a grandfather figure.”

For Greg, seeing how his team and the Blue Panther softball community, came together was especially touching.

“It was kind of a surreal moment,” he said. “You don’t often see kids or teenagers come together and organize an event like this. It was completely their doing. It was a proud moment to know the girls from a team you coached are so caring.”

After the game, the team had the chance to talk with Tom - a moment that was full of emotion for everyone involved.

“I think it’s super emotional for everyone, especially him and our coach, but it’s great that other people can see how it affects everybody, not just the person that it’s actually affecting, but everyone that he has affected and influenced,” Sierra Harrison.

The game also went good, Harrison said.

“I thought it went really well,” she said. “From the beginning of the game, we came together as a team. We communicated really well, which we haven’t really done in the past few games. We just played sound defense, which I think won that game.”

Greg was happy with how his team performed during the game following a disappointing performance last outing.

“This was the response I was looking for from the girls after a disappointing outing against North Bend two days ago,” he said. “We just took advantage of their mistakes and pitches well and played great defense.”

While someone looking at a stat sheet might only notice that Blue River scored nine runs in the first three innings and never looked back, or that Aspyn Harrison got the win at pitcher, while striking out 10 batters, and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple, or that Sierra Harrison hit 3 RBI, what they won’t notice is what that night was really about.

“ALS is kind of like any terminal illness. You never think it’s going to impact you until it does,” Greg said. “It definitely is an eye-opener. The players and families have all been willing to help out in any way they can, and there’s no way my family could ever repay them.”

In other action the week for the Blue River Panthers, they went 1-2 at a tournament in Omaha over the weekend losing to Platteview 11-4, and North Bend 5-4. They then defeated South Sioux City 14-3.

David City Aquinas went 2-3 over the week with victories over Ashland-Greenwood, 9-8, and Ralson 8-4. They lost games to Guardian Angels Central Catholic, Logan View/Scribner-Snyder and Bennington.

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net

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