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Yankees great Bernie Williams bringing personal message to Sky Sox crowd

May 31, 2018 Updated: June 1, 2018 at 5:18 pm
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photo - Former New York Yankees player Bernie Williams plays the national anthem before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Former New York Yankees player Bernie Williams plays the national anthem before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks) 

Who among us hasn’t envisioned how we might fill our days if we could retire young and without a financial care?

Here’s how former Yankees great Bernie Williams is living out that scenario: recording Grammy-nominated music, graduating from college and, in his way, avenging his father’s death.

It’s the final piece that will bring him to Colorado Springs on Friday, as the four-time World Series winner and AL batting champion will appear at a Sky Sox game (6:40 p.m.) to promote awareness of the rare lung disease that killed his father in 2001.

“I’m living the dream,” Williams said Thursday. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing – playing music and paying tribute to my dad’s memory.”

Williams’ father, Bernabé, died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2001. The lung disease, which is diagnosed in about 50,000 Americans each year, remains unknown to many; as it was to Williams’ family at the time.

For years, Williams’ father was treated as though he had the common cold or bronchitis, and it wasn’t until he had carried the disease for nearly five years that it was correctly diagnosed. At that point, there was nothing that could be done beyond managing his comfort level as the family awaited the end.

“Because I was in New York, even though I was very concerned, there was nothing I could do,” Williams said.

But now there is.

Williams wants to build awareness of this fatal disease to help others catch it early enough to allow treatments to slow its effects. He has teamed with Boehringer Ingelheim’s Breathless campaign to educate through appearances at ballgames.

Last year he toured big-league cities to play the national anthem and throw out the pitch, leaving the public address announcers to explain the purpose of the campaign. Williams would then tell his story in the accompanying press tour.

This year he’ll visit minor league cities – beginning Friday with his first visit to Colorado Springs – where he’ll be taking the microphone to tell his story.

1996 Yankees Baseball
Former New York Yankees' Tino Martinez, left, and Bernie Williams embrace as the1996 Yankees baseball team were honored before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday, Aug.13, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (John Munson/The Star-Ledger via AP, Pool) 

“We’re thrilled to be able to have Bernie Williams out to the Ballpark tomorrow night!” Sky Sox assistant general manager Chris Phillips said in an email to The Gazette. “Through our relationships with Minor League Baseball, we were able to join into a partnership with the Bernie Williams Breathless Campaign to help raise awareness of the rare lung disease that took his dad’s life – idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.  We’re actually the first stop on Bernie’s tour and we are very proud and excited to help him kick things off!”

And so, Williams continues to mix his key interests. His college degree, by the way, came from the Manhattan School of Music in 2016, where the ballplayer-turned Latin jazz musician famously said, “The cool thing about this is there are no stats for wrong notes.”

There will be music and baseball on Friday, and Williams will use that platform to spread a message he desperately wants heard.

“Having an opportunity to interact with fans and people that appreciate what I did in the past as a baseball player while supporting my career as a musician is just an unbelievable experience,” he said. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.”

Kick off the weekend with Bernie

Bernie Williams will appear before the 6:40 p.m. Sky Sox game vs. Iowa at Security Service Field on Friday. The Yankees great and Latin Grammy nominee will promote awareness for the lung disease IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) that killed his father and will also throw out the first pitch and perform “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on guitar.

 

More about IPF

Bernie Williams is teaming with Boehringer Ingelheim's Breathless campaign to educate the public on IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). Here is more information on IPF:

  • IPF, which causes permanent scarring of the lungs and difficulty breathing, affects as many as 132,000 Americans. IPF leads to approximately 40,000 deaths each year.
  • Breathlessness is one of the main symptoms of IPF, which can make everyday activities, like blowing bubbles, hard for someone living with the disease. Williams will encourage fans to blow bubbles together in honor of those living with IPF.
  • About 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with IPF every year.
  • Diagnosing IPF can be difficult and take years because the symptoms of IPF are similar to – and often confused with – more common respiratory or cardiac diseases like COPD, asthma, or congestive heart failure.
  • Most people with IPF live just three to five years after diagnosis.
  • There is no cure, but treatments are available and are more effective with an earlier diagnosis.
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