The mainstream knew Pete Frates as the architect of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Now they're being reintroduced to him as the best friend and big brother of Boston College baseball.
This past weekend, two teams from two totally different backgrounds played some exhibition baseball. The Lexington Blue Sox of the Intercity League traveled south to take on the Cotuit Kettleers of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League to play a doubleheader at historic Lowell Park. It served as the unofficial kickoff for the Cape League season, and it's a sign that even as the college season winds down with the NCAA Tournament, the summer season is dawning pretty quickly.
Lexington and Cotuit couldn't be any further apart on the summer league spectrum, but they joined together for a great cause. Playing a doubleheader, the Blue Sox and Kettleers played in the name of Pete Frates in an effort to raise money to support the fight against ALS. It's the latest in a series where the baseball community came together to honor the director of baseball operations and former captain of the Boston College baseball team, a guy who suited up for Lexington against Cotuit back in 2011.
There's a new emphasis on Pete Frates thanks to the Boston College baseball team run through the NCAA Tournament. Two summers ago, when the Ice Bucket Challenge reached the mainstream media, Pete became a household name. People poured water over their head, and more money and awareness than ever before came to the fight against ALS.
As the Eagles fight their way to baseball prominence, the mainstream is now focusing, once again, on the fight against ALS. From Facetiming with Pete before and after games to taking pictures with the Frate Train banner, the berth in the Super Regionals is allowing for more people, once again, to talk about the impact of Pete on the program and all those who play or have a role in the Eagles.
Pete's impact is far from a new concept. Starting with his diagnosis, Mike Gambino and Boston College has been there every step of the way.
"(Two days after his diagnosis), Mike Gambino called Pete and asked for him to come into his office," John Frates, Pete's dad, told me in an interview back during the Beanpot. "We knew Mike a little bit because he was an assistant while Pete was at BC for a couple of years before he moved onto the Detroit Tigers (as a scout). When he called Pete, he also wanted to speak with me...(he) looked right at Pete and said, 'Congratulations you're now my director of baseball operations.'"
Starting with that moment, Pete and John became travel companions of the Boston College baseball team. Each trip, they would go with Birdball and spend time with the players on the team. It tied the Birdball family to the Frates family in a fight that would only end with a cure for ALS.
"It's something that we've been doing ever since Pete got sick," said Gambino this week. "He was with us when he was traveling with us and then when he couldn't travel with us. It's something we've been doing, and that Frate Train flag has been in our locker room for three years."
In 2014, Boston College opened their baseball season in Santa Clara, California. Over three days time, the Eagles played four games against both the Nevada Wolfpack and Santa Clara Broncos. While it was the start of the journey that season, it was also the first time Frates had not traveled with the team since his diagnosis.
"That was the first trip that Pete couldn't make," said Gambino. "So Mike Rivera, who was our manager at the time, walked around practice with an iPad with FaceTime so Pete could be at practice the entire time. And Julie (Pete's wife) told the boys after practice that they were pregnant with Lucy (their daughter). So people are seeing it now and people are talking about it now, but this isn't anything different that we have been doing."
Ask any of the Eagles on the baseball team about Pete, and they'll immediately light up. They'll talk about him as their brother, as their inspiration. They know that when the going gets tough, Pete is on their mind. If Pete can get up one day after another in his fight, being tired on the mound, being down two strikes - it's nothing compared to the greater fight for which they stand with their mentor.
This weekend, the Eagles will take on Miami in Coral Gables with a chance to head to Omaha. Above everything, above every other discussion, the presence of the familiar flag will once again be in their dugout. Pete Frates may not be there at Mark Light Field, but he will be. And by taking the field for one more weekend, the fight against ALS - our fight against ALS - will once again prove that it's a fight ALS simply cannot win.