Players look to ALS Halloween Game as Hughes reflects on founding 19-Ways

Head coach Pete Hughes giving direction to an outfielder on Feb. 28, 2020. (Archive photo by Sree Nikhil Keshamoni | Collegian Media Group)

With Kansas State baseball’s annual ALS Halloween Game set for Saturday, Oct. 30, head coach Pete Hughes and redshirt freshman Brady Day emphasize the importance of the 19-Ways campaign, as senior Terrence Spurlin and sophomore-transfer Orlando Salinas look forward to the fun it offers.

Hughes founded the ALS Halloween Game at Virginia Tech as part of 19-Ways, a community service initiative that assists people on 19 different occasions. He began the program while coaching at Boston College (1999-2006) and then brought it to Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and now K-State.

“Anytime your kids can put on Halloween costumes and get an extra opportunity to fill up their candy bags and watch baseball players in costumes, it’s a fun night for the community,” Hughes said.

The Wildcats hurdled some obstacles over the past couple of seasons with stadium construction and COVID-19, but hope for a good turnout this season. The game is scheduled to start 30 minutes after the end of K-State’s home football game against TCU.

Salinas, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has yet to experience the annual event and looks forward to the community interaction.

“I’m excited for the kids to show up and interact with all of them, especially since last year with COVID and everything we weren’t able to get that interaction,” Salinas said. “Hopefully, it’ll be a good turnout this year.”

Salinas also unveiled his costume for the game.

“I’m gonna be J Balvin, which is a superstar Spanish rapper/singer,” Salinas said. “I’m gonna dye my hair turquoise and put a few designs in there and wear sunglasses; do the whole thing.”

Spurlin revealed his and sophomore Connor McCullough’s costumes for Saturday’s fun scrimmage too.

“I’m going with Connor McCullough and we’re going to be badminton players,” Spurlin said. “It’ll be interesting to try to hit a ball in that.”

For Day, 19-Ways hits closer to home. The Alzheimer’s Walk on Saturday was the opportunity he’s been waiting for since this past season’s walk was canceled because of COVID-19.

“Personally, I’ve been affected by Alzheimer’s,” Day said. “My grandmother had it, so it was good to get out there and give back to the people who support us every week.”

Hughes also reflected on 19-Ways and the importance the ALS Halloween Game has on the community. His favorite thing about the game isn’t the costumes, but the deeper meaning of giving back.

“We shed light on a disease that needs a lot of attention and needs a lot of funding,” Hughes said. “So anytime we can do that, and say those three letters, and say it publicly, and draw attention to those three letters, it’s a productive night.”

Since Hughes founded 19-Ways at Boston College, the impact has reached beyond a local scale and is becoming a nationwide presence in college baseball. Programs such as Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Northeastern and Northern Illinois have adopted this initiative.

Hughes originally founded it to help others as his family witnessed first-hand the horrors of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. A friend of his wife’s and a former player he coached at Boston College were both diagnosed.

“It’s a disease that’s close to me and my family, and my wife lost one of her best friends in college at the age of 33,” Hughes said. “Then, one of the best human beings I recruited and coached at Boston College, Pete Frates. He was the pioneer of the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Pete Frates and Patrick Quinn started the Ice Bucket Challenge in the summer of 2014. People posted a video on social media, nominating a person who then pours ice water over their heads. Then the person who’s nominated repeats the cycle by nominating someone else.

The tactic proved to be effective, as the cause raised $115 million for the ALS Association and over $220 million for ALS research around the world as of 2020, according to the association. Now, Hughes continues 19-Ways in part to honor the memory of loved ones lost.

“We lost Pete two falls ago at 33, ironically, so it’s a disease and it’s a cause that we’ll always put our names behind in the memory of people who were close to us,” Hughes said.

The Wildcats have completed eight community initiatives for 19-Ways this season, most recently volunteering at a Halloween promotional deal for children at Sunset Zoo. The ninth initiative is the ALS Halloween Game.

Coach Hughes isn’t completely sure about what he’s wearing for the Halloween Game but is leaning towards a traditional Halloween theme.

“I think I’m going to be a pumpkin,” Hughes said.

The game will take place at Tointon Family Stadium immediately following the end of the football game against TCU. Admission is free, but costumes and masks are recommended.