ALS Claims Wolfpack Baseball Great Chris Combs
Chris Combs, whose accomplishments as a baseball star at NC State have been overshadowed by his courageous battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, succumbed to the disease on Thursday.
He was 44.
Combs' brother Ryan broke the sad news on his Facebook page, saying that while "it is hard to say goodbye, I know that he is no longer in pain and is at peace in Heaven watching over all of us.'
An imposing physical presence at 6-foot-7, Combs was pitcher, outfielder and first baseman for the Wolfpack from 1994-97. His 42 career home runs still rank fifth in school history while his 159 RBI are among the top 10.
He went on to be drafted in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft and played professionally for several years before returning to his alma mater, where he served as an associate director for the Wolfpack Club.
After being diagnosed in 2016 with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, Combs and his wife Gena formed a foundation designed to raise awareness about the disease and help bring about a cure.
Team Chris Combs has raised more than than $4,000,000 for targeted research. A scholarship endowment has also been made in his name to the Wolfpack Club.
This spring, Combs' No. 26 became the first to be honored by State's baseball program. A scheduled pregame ceremony to honor for the former Wolfpack star in April, however, had to be canceled when the season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
“As great of a player as Chris Combs was, his contribution to NC State baseball goes well beyond statistics and accolades, and far beyond wins and losses,” Elliott Avent, whose first season as the Wolfpack's coach was Combs' senior year as a player, said this spring. “He represents the best in human spirit, the best of what it means to wear an NC State baseball jersey, and it’s only fitting his number should be honored for everyone who steps into our ballpark to see.”
Combs’ father, Frank, also played for NC State and was a 17th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 1969. Frank’s twin brother, Fred, and Chris’ brother Ryan also played for the Wolfpack.
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