Santa Barbara- S County

First pitch campaign from Santa Barbara helps Myositis patients with illness

Local man leads effort one throw at a time

First pitch campaign brings awareness from a Santa Barbara man to the myositis illness affecting millions of people.  (John Palminteri/KEYT.com)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A first pitch campaign led by Vance Robinson in Santa Barbara is a home run for those battling myositis, a muscle disease facing millions of Americans.

Walking onto a baseball field has been part of Robinson's life since he was able to put on a glove.

He played on Little League teams and is recalls his days on the fields of Goleta and Santa Barbara where he developed his love for the game.

These days it's still a deep passion, and more of a priority than ever as he suffers from myositis. 

"It is a neurological disease, a muscular disease and it affects my thighs and my grip and my walk," said Robinson.

There are four types of myositis.  They include juvenile miyositis, polymiyositis and dermatomyositis and inclusion body miyositis -- what Robinson has.

He started a first pitch campaign three years ago, wherever he could get scheduled to open a game.

Recently he fired up the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos as they were heading to the league championship.

"Here I am. I love baseball," he said at the field. "The month of May is myositis awareness month and it is the last month of college baseball before the playoffs."

The throw is what he calls a "two-seamer."

"The first year I did the myositis first pitch, went out with a cane, I still had a little 'giddyup' in my walk. The second year, same thing, and now I am on a scooter and I will be using a walker going up to the mound," said Robinson. He says he wants to stand strong but not fall making his pitch.

His backing from friends is impressive. It goes back to the days when he played for the Goleta Valley Little league.

Matt Johnston was cooking up hot dogs at a tailgate party before a game and said, "It makes me feel bad complaining about my little aches and pains. Yeah it helps me deal with every day life." 

It's a tight bond for Drew Ponce who is often with Robinson at the ball fields.

"I've gone to five to seven games this year with Vance, and I will always be there," Ponce said.

How Robinson handled the challenge has been a plan that brings his friends, baseball and the effort to help others all together. 

"His thing was, 'what can I do to bring out the awareness for myositis?'" Ponce said. "So baseball being his love he decided, 'I'm going to start throwing out first pitches.'"

He began in the Bay area. 

"My nuerologist is at Stanford and so Stanford was my first pitch and after that pitch I got invited to the White House," Robinson said. "I have been to the White House, I did Cal Poly, UCSB, Pepperdine, USC, UCLA and San Diego State."  He has also pitched at Westmont College nearby in Montecito.

He brings some good stuff to the mound.

"My pitch is always on point. I don't go very far. The main thing about this disease is it's affected my strength but it has not affected my personality or who I am," said Robinson with a big smile.

"I get up every day and I push. God's got a plan. Here I am. It hasn't affected my personality and I am getting weaker but I am doing it," he said while hanging out with the Gaucho baseball team.

For more information about myositis, click here or text text the word "pitch" to 77948.


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