by Mason Raven
For those who do not recognize the name Wade Simoneaux, look at the number 47 hanging on the right field fence of Father Wilson Field. Then look in the Eagle dugout – where Simoneaux coached the Eagles
Now, though, Simoneaux is none of those places.
A school legend, Simoneux passed away Sunday, Sept. 23 at the age of 36.
In the early 1990s, Simoneaux walked the halls of St. Thomas.
“I taught him, and I never noticed anything out of the ordinary,” Superior of the Basilian community at St. Thomas Father Robert Glass, C.S.B. said. “He was a great athlete.”
It was during that time, however, Simoneaux began to develop the early symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis–ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Thus, the disease slowly deteriorates motor functions and significantly reduces one’s life span.
With the undetected ALS looming, Simoneaux continued high school like everybody else. However, there was one thing that really made Simoneaux stand out among his peers: his passion for baseball.
He loved the game of baseball. He loved every aspect of it, including playing for the Eagles.
He dreamt of one day coming back to the school and coaching his beloved St. Thomas baseball team.
“Wade was just so happy to be out there,” Isa Garcia, ‘02, who was coached and befriended by Simoneaux during the 2001 and 2002 season, said. “That guy truly loved the game of baseball.”
Upon graduating in the May of 1994, Simoneaux had not received any scholarship offers to play collegiate baseball.
Saddened but undeterred, he knew a school would want him. It was just a matter of which.
While still living in Houston, Simoneaux got his chance at St. Edward’s University. He had earned a roster spot on a collegiate baseball team; one of his ultimate dreams had come true.
Simoneaux packed his bags and rushed to St. Edward’s to begin practice.
Nearing his 21st birthday, Simoneaux’s motor functions began impeding his play. Worry-stricken, the Simoneaux family sought an answer.
Upon examination, Simoneaux was diagnosed with ALS and, with it, his dreams of continuing to play collegiate baseball were crushed.
“I was really surprised when Wade was diagnosed with ALS,” Glass said. “It was odd that he was diagnosed at such a young age.”
With his collegiate baseball career over, Simoneaux needed a break. About a year later, he graduated from St. Edward’s University with honors.
Simoneaux then established a foundation called Batter Up for an ALS Cure in 1999. It is still functioning to this very day.
Batter Up for an ALS Cure raises awareness for ALS and strives to find a cure through extensive research.
“Batter Up for ALS’ main function is to raise money for ALS research,” Vice President of Finance for Batter Up for ALS Cure Bernie Wilganowski said. “One of the doctors at John Hopkins [University] once told Wade that a cure is possible but there was not enough money to do the research and make a cure possible.
“That single comment was behind the creation of Batter Up for ALS.”
A few years after establishing his foundation, Simoneaux returned to his alma mater to fulfill his long awaited return to Father Wilson Field — as a coach. Assigned to be the pitching coach, Simoneaux proved to be critical to the Eagles’ success.
“He stole about 90 percent of the opponent’s signs,” assistant varsity baseball coach and one of Simoneaux’s former players Sean O’Neil, ‘00, said. “We practically already knew what pitch was coming when we stepped into the box.”
During the 2001 baseball season, the Eagles won their first ever TAPPS state championship. Simoneaux was an invaluable contributor to the success of the 2001 team.
“Wade definitely had an impact on the way I played baseball,” Garcia said. “It made our 2001 team work hard and most importantly have fun, which is why we had the success we did.”
After the state championship, Simoneaux’s health began a slow but steady decline. For nearly a decade after his state championship, Simoneaux would attend almost, if not every, home baseball game, serving as a figure of Eagle baseball.
“Wade is the poster boy for St. Thomas baseball, ” Garcia said. “To come back to your alma mater and help us out the way he did showed how much he loved his school while dealing with an incurable disease.”
This past March, prior to the start of the annual St. Thomas versus Strake baseball game, Simoneaux was honored before a capacity crowd of alumni, parents, players and the rest of the school community. The Eagles defeated the Crusaders, throwing a no-hitter — one Simoneaux was there to witness.
“He made it to almost every baseball game,” said senior Devin Bear, who has two older brothers who played in the baseball program within the last seven years. “To me, it really showed how much he cared about baseball in general, this school, and more importantly, the baseball team.”
That would be the last time Simoneaux would be on Father Wilson Field.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 23, Simoneaux passed away. He was 36 years old.
His younger brother, David Simoneaux, stated it best during the funeral.
“You shouldn’t be crying or surprised by his passing. We all knew this day would come a long time ago,” Simoneaux said. “Wade wouldn’t want everybody crying. That should’ve been done a long time ago.
“Rather, we are here to celebrate his life.”
Wade Simoneaux emulated the “goodness, discipline, and knowledge” that embodies every student that walks the halls of this school.
He made selfless decisions for the betterment of others while making an everlasting impact on many.
“It is hard to say how many people Wade reached,” Wilganowski said. “It was never about him. He just wanted to find a cure for someone else.”