EDMONTON – The provincial final of the Prairie Junior Little League tournament had a special meaning for the starting pitcher of the Confederation Cubs.
“I feel kind of nervous. I haven’t pitched against them before,” said Kai Sakaguchi.
Monday’s game was potentially the last time 14-year-old Kai would pitch with his mother looking-on in the stands.
Susann Sakaguchi, 47, was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in October 2012.
The disease has robbed her of her independence. She is no longer able to walk or speak.
“We knew she was going to suffer for a while, but her progression was very quicker than we expected,” explained Hajime Sakaguchi, Susann’s husband.
“Losing her speech was an impact for our family. That happened two months ago.”
Organizers of the provincial tournament stepped-up to the plate by dedicating the tournament in Susann’s honour. The umpires wore purple hats and fans helped raise money for ALS research.
“I know for our club directly – because it’s a small community of players and parents – it’s been a big eye opener on how quickly the disease can basically take place,” said Andy Kaulbach, Confederation Park Cubs.
“It’s good that people are trying to help out,” said Kai.
Baseball has been an important part of the Sakaguchi family’s life, with both Kai and his brother playing the sport since they were five-years-old.
Despite losing her ability to speak Susann has continued to come to the field to support her sons.
“Susann was always the number one fan of them,” said Hajime.
On Monday afternoon, Kai and the Confederation Cubs gave his mother plenty to cheer about. The team came back in the 7th inning to beat the Medicine Hat Expo’s and capture the provincial championship, and Kai was named Player of the Game.
With files from Global News’ Kendra Slugoski
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