Baseball player opens ‘home-run challenge’ targeting rare diseases

Twins' center fielder hopes to raise $150,000 to support Uplifting Athletes

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by Patricia Valerio, PhD |

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An illustration showing people's hands coming together in a show of support for each other.

Michael A. Taylor of the Minnesota Twins baseball team has opened a “home-run challenge” to support Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit rare disease advocacy and support platform, and the rare disease community.

People can support the campaign by pledging a donation for every home run he hits during the 2023 baseball season or by making a one-time donation.

The Minnesota Twins’ center fielder and his wife, Brianna, have committed to match pledges, dollar-for-dollar up to $75,000, given to the challenge. He aims to raise more than $150,000 for the rare disease community between supporters’ pledges or donations and his match.

People making pledges also will be entered into a sweepstakes, with prizes including signed gear and game tickets.

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Michael Taylor will match pledges made this season, dollar-for-dollar

“I’m excited to launch this campaign,” Taylor said in a press release from Uplifting Athletes. “I hope my friends, family, and fans will join me in this challenge so we can bring awareness to the 30 million Americans living with a rare disease.”

An estimated 7,000 rare diseases, including aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency, are known to exist worldwide.

Taylor’s sister Danielle was born with trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, a rare genetic disease that causes severe developmental delays. Expected to die within months of her birth, Danielle lived to turn 20.

The Twins’ player aims to knock out of the field as many balls as possible this season, which opened March 30 and ends on Oct. 1, with post-season play starting days later.

“We are in a unique position to honor Danielle and so many other families affected by a rare diagnosis,” Taylor said.

During the 2022 Major League Baseball season, Taylor helped to raise more than $55,000 in support of Uplifting Athletes, scoring 139 hits on the field while playing with the Kansas City Royals.

“While this is my first season with the Twins, I am proud to support Uplifting Athletes again so that a brighter future can exist for the over 10,000 rare diseases that still need an FDA-approved treatment,” Taylor said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medicines, including their approval.

“I will be giving my all on the diamond to support this cause. Together we can inspire hope,” Taylor added.

Uplifting Athletes was started about 20 years ago by Scott Shirley, a Penn State University football player and student, after his own family experience with a rare disease.

The nonprofit uses the power of sporting events to bring awareness to the lives of people with rare diseases and to fund research, having raised more than $8 million to date.

AADC deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system by impairing the body’s capability to make certain brain signaling molecules critical for communication between nerve cells.

Only about 120 cases of this disease have been reported worldwide. Patients can be affected by a wide range of disease symptoms, including developmental delays, low muscle tone, and restricted growth.