Long-time Covering the Corner user and co-chair of the 2023 Cleveland Walk to Defeat ALS® fundraiser, David Hollister (or as he is known here, Stuart Dean), will be trying to not “Kelce” the first pitch on Guardians Lou Gehrig night this coming Tuesday, June 6.
David approached me and Jay in hopes that we would share his story and raise awareness about ALS and other degenerative nerve diseases as well as share some experiences as a long-term Guards fan and poster on Let’s Go Tribe/Covering the Corner. After weeks of exchanging emails and phone calls and working on a Google document together, I’m happy to present his story below.
David was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disorder over a year ago. Though 62, he laments that going from snapping off 50+ yard football throws to desperately hoping to not embarrass himself throwing a baseball 45 feet seemingly happened in a blink.
After hopefully throwing the first pitch to “someone (anyone!) with better blocking abilities than Zunino,” he will retire to the Dolans’ suite. The Dolans, with whom he has both a personal and professional relationship, will graciously surrender the suite to his friends and family for the evening.
Degenerative neuron disease has hit more than one person close to the Dolans this year as Donna Ott, who worked in their suite for as long as David can remember, passed away from ALS this year and they were very involved in her care. Previously Donna worked for the FBI and was involved in 9/11 recovery at the Twin Towers and was the photographer at the Flight 93 crash site. She told David years ago that she outlived co-workers because she wore all the correct gear but it seems to have nevertheless caught up to her as there is a strong correlation between burn pit sites and ALS.
David is a native Clevelander who graduated from University School, Amherst College, and NYU B-school and spent 20 years in New York City — primarily as a bond trader. He later worked in baseball, selling interactive pitching machines. As part of that job, he was invited to do a 2004 fan fest event with the then-Cleveland Indians. David chose July 25 as that was his Dad’s 79th birthday. On that July 23, he went to a game and then afterward ran into his now wife, Dana, whom he had known forever but never dated. It was over in about five minutes — he moved back to town two months later and was married a year to the day after that night. He later left the baseball gig for commercial real estate.
David has been a baseball fan all the way back to when Jose Cardenal was his favorite Cleveland player and Roberto Clemente his hero. He still has PTSD from seeing Boog Powell sporting an all-red uni. He spotted the Joe Carter/Cory Snyder SI cover in his NYC building and immediately thought that “with a pitching staff that featured Ken Schrom, two guys in their 40s, and three knuckleballers there was absolutely no way they’re going to be any good”. Fans at Yankee Stadium used to buy him beers back then out of sympathy and a judicial panel in the bleachers once ruled that while he would be allowed to keep a Cleveland home run they were likewise allowed to throw him back.
David was in the house when a skinny kid named Thome hit his first home run into the upper deck and when the “Manny being Manny” legend was born when while hitting career homers one and two, he also tried to circle the bases on a ground rule double. He also saw Russ Branyan’s first career home run off David Cone in his first 1999 at bat. The Yankees won the game 10-9 with a Jeter hit in the 10th and he congratulated Jeter’s parents sitting in front of him once Mrs. Jeter got over her concern about being approached by a guy wearing a Cleveland hat. He took a picture of the scoreboard before Branyan’s next at-bat with the 1.000 BA and gave the picture to him in spring training the next year.
In 1995, David flew in from NYC for every single playoff game. He later thanked Tony Pena for swinging through the take sign not so much for winning the first playoff game as much as ending it as it had been windy and raining through 10 innings and two delays and he was frozen. Like everyone, he has a collection of unrequited prospect crushes like Beau Allred, Adam Miller, Matt Whitney, and Bryce Stowell though he was right about José Ramírez, even though, per a well-placed source according to David, “nobody knew Jose was going to be this good.” He must also admit that he turned to someone before the very pitch Rajai hit out to opine that he was choked up too far on his bat to be able to drive it.
Bill James first’ book completely transformed David’s view of the game so he was early on analytics but confesses that it has since passed him by. He met a lot of front-office people, ex-players, and media while selling machines and got to shag flies next to Vladimir Guerrero. He was struck by how many genuinely nice people there were in the game.
David joined Lets Go Tribe in 2008, then anchored by the “acerbic, brutally logical Jay, the ever-dependable westbrook, and an exceptional moderator named Andrew whose lawn, even then, had a ‘stay off of at all costs’ sign.” David has enjoyed watching Covering the Corner pass through to the capable hands of Matt, Brian, and Blake, and “the exceedingly gracious Quincy” (his words, not mine). He greatly enjoys and respects DelGua & mcrose’s prospect insights and wonders where Chuck went. He feels that CTC is flat out the definitive Guardians coverage which has done a great job of keeping trolls at the gate and that the site feels like family.
Stuart Dean is a name he came up with for the five minutes he was employed to write for the MLB-HOF website. Stuart because Jon Stewart happened to wander into the diner while he was thinking of names and his significant other came up with Dean.
When I asked what he wants to get across regarding Lou Gehrig Day, he told me:
If Lou Gehrig was afflicted while playing now, he would have the exact same prognosis as he did 84 years ago. Perhaps the current lack of a cure is partially attributable to the fact that unlike, say cancer, there are no survivors to carry on the fight. Patient-level knowledge and efforts keep getting recycled instead of further advancing. There are some really smart people working on this — especially at Mass General — but there needs to be much, much more focus on it.
He also hopes that fellow Amherst grad U.S. Senator Chris Coons’ (D-Del.) re-establishment of the bipartisan Senate ALS Caucus along with Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is a step in the right direction.
We are going to leave comments open, with David’s blessing, but he asks that it not be about him — there should be no expressions of sympathy or prayers and he has been heard to say that a particularly gruesome fate awaits any person who terms any part of this as being inspirational or brave.
So instead, simply wish him luck for the first pitch tomorrow. He has found that he can “hit a catcher about 80% of the time from 45 feet” and hopes that the other 20% does not rear its ugly head. Paul Dolan’s advice to him was to “aim high” as most mistakes are predominantly underthrows. In any case, David will step to the mound with a purpose that goes beyond the result of any one pitch. He will be seeking to be a small part of helping folks remember the impact of ALS and related diseases on those who are affected by these conditions across the nation and the world.
As for all of us at Covering the Corner, we know David will hit his target. Good luck, David, and thank you for sharing your story with us.