NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York Mets’ legend Bud Harrelson is opening up about his battle with Alzheimer’s disease, sharing his story to let others know they are not alone.
The scrappy shortstop and switch-hitter of the 1969 Mets is best known to fans as the anchor of the infield. Of course, they can’t forget his row with Pete Rose in ’73.
Harrelson made quite a career for himself. In short, he played, coached and managed the Mets, then managed the Long Island Ducks. He’s co-owner of the minor league team.
But in 2016, life changed. He was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
“I didn’t know what it was, but I do now,” he said Friday.
Harrelson and his family shared their story at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America conference in Midtown. His ex-wife Kim Battaglia spoke of the diagnosis.
“In the moment, was devastating,” she said.
“It was for me,” he added.
Web Extra: Mets Legend On Life With Alzheimer’s
He said much has changed since the diagnosis. He immediately stopped driving.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to have to do,” he said.
His signature is not as fancy as it once was and he no longer throws batting practice for the Ducks.
But a lot has stayed the same, too.
“I’m still there every day,” he said.
Harrelson is not alone in his diagnosis. More than half a million people in the Tri-State Area are living with Alzheimer’s, and more than five million nationwide. That may double by 2040, CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported.
“You need a team to go throughout the journey and you need to seek help and support,” said Alzheimer’s Foundation of America President & CEO Charles Fuschillo.
When an audience member asked Harrelson how it feels having Alzheimer’s, he replied, “Most of the time, I don’t feel it.”
“I still think I can play. Hey, it would be cool, wouldn’t it?” he added.
His family said his regimen to slow the progression of the disease includes medication, a healthy, clean diet and most of all, physical and mental activity.