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Playing for Pierce – Ken West softball goes to bat for ALS

Cassidy Pierce will never forget the greatest lesson she learned from her dad Mike. Never stop loving life.

“My dad was always never give up,” said Cassidy Pierce, a junior on the Kenmore West Lady Blue Devils softball team. “His whole thing was it’s easier to quit then to keep going. There’s no point to giving up because it shows you aren’t trying hard enough. That was his big thing. Life will always be worth it. But his big thing was life is great.”

The Lady Blue Devils are dedicating the 2021 season to the memory of Mike Pierce who lost his three-year battle with ALS in March. He was just 51. He is survived by his wife Tricia, Cassidy and sons Connor and Shaun. Pierce spent 17 years coaching his own and other Ken-Ton kids in baseball and softball.

His kind, caring personality and coaching style made him a mainstay on diamonds all over WNY. Mike was honored in a ceremony prior to the Blue Devils season opener May 13. The Blue Devils and visiting CSAT both stood on the baselines in front of their dugouts while Voice of the Lady Blue Devils Clarence Boatman read a speech honoring Mike’s life and the impact he made on others as his family stood on the Blue Devils side holding hands.

The ceremony included Cassidy catching the first pitch thrown by her brother Connor Pierce.

“It’s absolutely amazing. The support we have gotten from the school and from the team has been overwhelming,” said Connor Pierce. “To be able to see this and hear about it, it kind of hit us by surprise. My sister was trying out for the (varsity) team and one day she just came home overwhelmed with all of this emotion. We were talking to her and she told us what the Lady Blue Devils are doing. It’s hard to even put into words.”

Connor, who coached with his dad for years, said softball was always one of those things that helped bring the family even closer together. “All these girls have been on my team throughout my whole life,” Cassidy said. “So they were always there through all sports. Basketball, softball and volleyball. We all played together. As soon as my dad passed they, were all there every single one of them were there at some point. Texting messages, at my house.”

From everything from kind words and hugs to flowers, Cassidy said her team was there when she needed them most. And they continue to support her every step of the way. Blue Devils coach Kim Leggett, herself a former Lady Blue Devil, said that since day one the softball program has always been about family and being there for each other.

“We go through the highs together we go through the loss together,” said Leggett. “We just wanted to show how much we care and that we are here for Cassidy and her family.” Leggett said she wanted to do some type of charity game, but was not sure what worthy cause her team to support. When this loss hitting so close to home Leggett said it was a no brainer that they support the Pierce family and throw their efforts into raising money and awareness about ALS.

More commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (Arterial Lateral Sclerosis) is a debilitating illness that attacks the cell nerves in the spine and brain and slowly robbing the victim of their strength. Mike Pierce never gave up or gave in to the illness. He fought to lead as normal a life as possible right down to coaching Cassidy’s house softball team. Mike even bought a glove for his opposite hand so he could still catch and throw the ball with the arm that was still functional as he rans practices.

“It was difficult to say the least,” Mike Pierce wrote, “but I wasn’t going to allow that final season to be stolen from me. I did this because I had to overcome my vanity and realize that I still had a lot to offer.” Pierce wanted to teach the girls who played for him life lessons about determination and simply gratitude for each day. Each breath. He accomplished that goal.

The Blue Devils aren’t just dedicating the season to Mike’s memory. They are using their success at the plate to aid two local organizations that care for ALS patients: Team Gleason and Hearts for ALS. Two groups that aided Mike Pierce and his family during the three year fight.

Cassidy Pierce said the team’s efforts could not only help raise money but much needed awareness about ALS, which still has no cure. “It’s knowing that all of this team is an advocate,” said Cassidy Pierce. “Everyone knows what ALS is so they can advocate for it at some point and I’d if someone doesn’t know what ALS is they can explain it because they learned from me from my personal experience.”

People can donate either a flat rate or a certain amount based on each time the Blue Devils score a run this season. Fund raised will go to Hearts for ALS.

“They’re an amazing organization all proceeds go to families who are dealing with ALS,” said Connor Pierce. “They’ve done so much for us. They’re Just an amazing organization.”

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