EAST LANSING – When Kirk Gibson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he thought it was a death sentence.
More than two years since he received the life-altering news, the former Michigan State two-sport standout and Major League Baseball star bound into the Red Cedar Room at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center on Saturday afternoon. He had both fists clenched before sitting down to talk about his fight.
Gibson was part of a press conference to announce “Gibby & Friends vs. Parky,” an effort to raise $1.2 million for Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine, to research and combat Parkinson’s Disease.
“When things of crisis happen or when you’re trying to solve problems, medical problems, there’s a Spartan will we always talk about and Spartan nation always comes together,” Gibson said. “The exciting part for this day is we’ve all come together today to tackle so many things.”
During Saturday afternoon’s press conference, Gibson was joined by Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, athletic director Mark Hollis, former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, former Michigan State football coach George Perles, who also has Parkinson’s Disease, and Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., the dean of Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine. The campaign was designed to tie in the university’s resources with those of the Van Andel Research Institute and Spectrum Health.
“Together, it positions us to be one of the leaders in Parkinson’s research in the nation,” Beauchamp said.
Gibson was an All-American football and baseball player at Michigan State and went on to play 17 seasons of Major League Baseball while winning a pair of World Series titles. He is being induced into the Spartan Stadium “Ring of Fame” during Saturday’s game (8 p.m., FOX) against Notre Dame but used the press conference to focus on the campaign to raise funds to fight Parkinson’s Disease.
“As you look back through time,” Hollis said, “Gibby is somebody that we have always called upon to do things at various times based upon his notoriety – not only as a Spartan but as a Dodger, as a Tiger – to be there for other people and to do amazing things along the way and he has done that year in and year out. … He’s an incredible person and he just wraps up what Michigan State University is all about and what the Spartan will is all about.”
Gibson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015 but has had it since 2008. He chose to go public with the news because he believes he can help others but doesn’t want to be singled out.
“This isn’t about me – let’s make sure everybody understands,” Gibson said. “This is about us coming together and attacking a cause and giving back. … I don’t want to minimize anybody else’s contribution to what’s going on here today. It’s the most important thing for everybody to realize.”
Gibson equated combating Parkinson’s Disease with playing baseball. He would take 250 swings a day in the batting cage, just looking to make one advancement that paid dividends.
“It’s doable,” Gibson said. “Who knows? In five years or 10 years, we hope we have a cure or a way to slow it down. That’s really what it’s all about.”