News & Stories

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Haberman 768x576

The year is 2000. It’s a spring day in New York. A baseball game is about to begin. Brosius is playing third and Pettitte is on the mound. But this team isn’t about to win a World Series against the Mets.  Instead, their coach is mostly hoping the 5-and-6-year-olds in his care, including the progeny of two superstar Yankees, will simply find the fun in it all – and maybe learn that all nine of them don’t have to go after the ball at the same time.

Sometimes the latter was a losing battle, but John Habermann made sure fun found its way into every single game. The enthusiasm and positive attitude he brought as a coach is now helping him during one of the most important battles of his life.

Over twenty years later John still finds the fun in everything he does – even as he faces his devastating ALS diagnosis, which he received in December of 2019. The Bronx, born-and-raised, lifelong Yankee fan appreciates the irony of his unfortunate connection to the Bombers, often saying he loves the Yankees so much he got Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s that sense of humor that gets him through.

John’s desire to live life to the fullest hasn’t dimmed even as ALS has taken so much else away. So, when the NY Yankees made it possible for him to see a game safely and comfortably, there was nothing that was going to stand in his way of getting there.

Covid put the brakes on his first scheduled outing in the spring of 2020, and then Hurricane Henri canceled his second.  But the 3rd time proved to be the charm and recently John and his family were guests of the Yankees in a private luxury suite with a perfect view — and an all-important handicap accessible bathroom.

“As John’s ALS progresses, getting out to do things has become increasingly difficult. Plus, we’ve been extra careful because of Covid. It definitely has made dealing with his illness even more challenging, especially for someone like John who is the most social person in the world,” shares his wife, Vicki. “The suite made going to the game so much easier. We felt safe, and it accommodated John and his needs perfectly.”

So, on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, John sat back in his motorized wheelchair, enjoyed a beer through his feeding tube, and took in the roar of the crowd. And although the Yankees couldn’t secure a victory that day, he still felt like a winner, basking not only in the attention of his loved ones, but of the entire stadium when his name appeared on the centerfield jumbotron.

“I’ve attended hundreds of games in my life, sometimes at the drop of a hat. Never in a million years would I have thought getting to a game would one day take so much effort and planning. But that’s life with ALS and you can’t let it stop you from doing the things you love,” says John via text.

John, and daughter Alyssa, at her graduation from Duke School of Medicine

From a trip to North Carolina this past May to watch his daughter graduate from medical school to a weekend getaway to Virginia this summer to see the city where she is now doing her residency, John refuses to miss out on life.

“It’s certainly not easy, not by a longshot, and it’s exhausting for my wife and my family to make these things happen, but they do and I really consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, just like Lou Gehrig,” acknowledges John.

Though ALS has robbed him of his ability to walk, talk, and eat, John continues to live his motto of finding joy in each and every day and inspires everyone around him to do the same.

John may have ALS but clearly, ALS does not have John.

Share This Page: