D-backs rally behind Kirk Gibson upon news of his Parkinson’s

PHOENIX — If there is one thing Diamondbacks players know, it is that Kirk Gibson will meet his battle with Parkinson’s disease full force.

Google Gibson’s home plate collision with Kansas City catcher Pat Borders in a 1995 game.

Like that. 

Forearm-shiver first.

"He’s a fighter. He’s strong-willed," D-backs right-hander Brad Ziegler said. "You feel like if somebody is going to beat it, it is going to be him. You know he is not going to give up at any point. He is going to keep fighting. He probably looking at it like, ‘I’m going to kick butt and do what I can and not change anything about the way I live because this is who I am.’"

Gibson, 57, made public Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the nervous system. Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox are among those who have been afflicted.

"It was a shock to all of us," D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "Gibby, obviously, means a lot to this organization. He had a couple of wonderful years here as a manager and is always gong to be part of this family. We’re here to support him. It’s got to be devastating news for him as it was for us. He is a competitor, whether it is on the field or in his personal life. He’s definitely going to tackle it hear on, we know that. There are some great treatments out there. He is going to have a lot of options."

Gibson is the last manager to lead the D-backs to the postseason, when his 2011 team won the NL West after a 29-game improvement from the previous year in his first full season on the job. He was removed as manager on the final weekend of the 2014 season, when the D-backs finished a major-league worst 64-98.

"I have faced many different obstacles in my life, and have always maintained a strong belief that no matter the circumstances, I could overcome those obstacles," Gibson said in a prepared statement.

"While this diagnosis poses a new kind of challenge for me, I intend to stay true to my beliefs. With the support of my family and friends, I will meet this challenge with the same determination and unwavering intensity that I have displayed in all of my endeavors in life. I look forward to being back at the ballpark as soon as possible."

As Gibson’s son, Cam, tweeted: "Kick it’s ass Dad!!! Thank you all for the support." Cam is a junior outfielder at Michigan State, Gibson’s alma mater.

Like Hall, many of the D-backs reached out with texts or phone messages Tuesday. 

"It’s tough, but we know if he takes half the approach that he did on the game itself, he’ll be fine," said D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill, who was among the several players who has hunted with Gibson in his northern Michigan spread. 

"He became a great friend. I obviously had a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player, as a manager. Off the field, I don’t think people really know how good of a guy he is. He has a big heart, a kind man. I know he has tremendous support around."

Colorado manager Walt Weiss was a contemporary of Gibson’s during the playing days. Weiss was Oakland’s shortstop in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for the most memorable of Gibson’s 262 career home runs, his one-handed, two-run, walkoff homer that gave the Dodgers a 5-4 victory. Gibson was the NL MVP that year.

"It’s awful, especially when it’s a guy who had such passion and energy when he played and when managed," Weiss said of Gibson’s diagnosis. "It’s tough to even think that a guy like that is struggling with a disease like this. I’m sure he’ll fight it the same way he showed up as a player every day."

Like Hill, Josh Collmenter spent time in the offseason hunting with Gibson in the Michigan woods.

"You are blind-sided. You don’t really expect anything like that to happen," Collmenter said. "To know him the last four years, the things that he’s been able to do in this game, to have something like this that could cripple you. A lot of times I’m sure you feel invincible, like something like that could never happen to you. I’m sure it’s as shocking to him as well in that realization. You wish him the best."

D-backs manager Chip Hale was the third base coach on Bob Melvin’s staff in 2007, when Gibson was the bench coach.

"I’ve learned so much from him," Hale said. "We had such great conversations and good time together. It’s just hard where you about this. This is a situation where, as he always has in his whole life, whether he was a football player in college or a great major league player, he is just going to attack that thing with the same fervor that he’s always had."

In their one season together, D-backs closer Addison Reed grew to see the toughness that marked Gibson, whose 14-year career took such a toll that he walked with a limp and could not pronate his left arm.

"He is by far the most mentally strong man or human I have ever met in my life," Reed said. "He’s going to fight it, and there is no doubt in my mind that he is gong to be all right."

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