Arizona Diamondbacks confident Kirk Gibson can kick Parkinson’s

Apr 28, 2015, 11:49 PM | Updated: 11:50 pm

PHOENIX — For eight seasons, Kirk Gibson manned the Arizona Diamondbacks dugout, the last four-plus years as the manager.

So, it should come as no surprise that news of his diagnosis of having Parkinson’s disease hit close to home for many.

“It’s tough. A lot of guys in this locker room are close to him and I feel like I would’ve been in that group,” said reliever Brad Ziegler, whose great grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s. “It’s tough to think about what he might be dealing with down the road. I don’t know what kind of medical advances have come with Parkinson’s, but I hope that they’re able to give him a good quality of life for however long he can last.”

Gibson’s best season during his D-backs managerial run, which began July 1, 2010, came in 2011 when he led the team to the NL West title, going 94-68. Following two .500 seasons in 2012 and 2013, the D-backs posted a 63-96 record — the worst in the Majors — in 2014, and Gibson was fired.

His 353 wins are the most in franchise history.

“It was a shock to all of us,” team president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “I mean, obviously, Gibby means a lot to this organization. He had a couple of wonderful years here as manager and he’s always going to be a part of this family.”

Several players reached out to their former manager, including second baseman Aaron Hill.

“(Gibson) became a great friend,” he said. “I obviously had tremendous amount of respect for him as a player, as a manager, but off the field I don’t think people really know how good of a guy he was. He had a big heart, really kind guy, kind man and loved his family. I know he’s got tremendous support around him on a day-to-day basis, which is great.”

Hill and starter Josh Collmenter were among a select few whom Gibson invited to go hunting with in the offseason at his ranch in Michigan.

Collmenter said he was blindsided by the news.

“You don’t really expect anything like that to happen,” he said. “To know him for the last four years and the things that he’s done and been able to do in this game and then to have something like this that could cripple you — you know a lot of times I’m sure you feel invincible like that something like that could never happen to you and so I’m sure it’s as shocking to him as well in that realization. You wish him the best and hope everything that works out for him really well.”

Gibson was brought to Arizona by then-manager Bob Melvin to serve as bench coach ahead of the 2007 season. Chip Hale, now the D-backs skipper, was the third base coach at the time, and the two worked together for three seasons.

“We’re all pulling for him to by okay,” he said. “(I) learned so much from him. We had such great conversations and good times together that it’s just hard to hear about that about any of your friends like this. It’s just—it’s gets tough, very tough.”

Mark Grace and Gibson never worked together, but competed against one another several times when Grace played for the Chicago Cubs.

Their paths crossed again years later in Arizona with Gibson managing and Grace in the broadcast booth.

“If something like that is going to happen to somebody, Gibby can kick it,” said Grace, the D-backs assistant hitting coach. “Gibby will be the guy that will, ‘Parkinson’s, who cares?’ He’s that kind of guy.”

Added Hall, “Just want him to know we’re here to support him. We’ve obviously got some great resources here in town. It’s got to be devastating news for him as it was for us, but he’s got plenty of families and friends to support him and especially right here at the D-backs.”

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