clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

For Frates Family, Beanpot and Boston College Always Intertwined with Special Memories

Pete Frates is one of the universally recognized graduates of Boston College. For his family, as the fight against ALS continues, there's the lasting image from the Beanpot.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For anyone who knows Pete Frates, there's going to be the lasting image. In the back of the image hulks Fenway Park's Green Monster. Pete stands in the foreground, a gold jersey on his body with the maroon logo, lettering, and piping caked in dirt. A look of exultation on his face, his arms remain outstretched above his head, holding the treasured trophy of the Beanpot.

This Beanpot marks 10 years since Frates went 4-for-4 for the Eagles, homering into the right field bullpen area as his team defeated Harvard by a 10-2 margin. The victory clinched the eighth such trophy for the program, the first in two years, the last until 2010.

For the Frates family, 10 years might seem like more than a couple of lifetimes. That's because the average lifespan of a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is between two and five years after the date of diagnosis. Now over four years since his diagnosis, times are very different for the family.

"Pete is struggling," said his father, John Frates. "Being on a ventilator is a game changer, and that happened last year. So now he's on around the clock nursing and he's a little limited in what he can do. We always have to watch his lung situation so pneumonia doesn't creep in, which it always has a tendency to do. It's a long winter; even though this winter isn't as bad, it's always a long winter. So hopefully if we can get him some fresh air and get to some better baseball weather, we can get him outside and out of being cooped up in the house."

"He is fighting," said John. "He is fighting with every fiber of his being, and I've seen that throughout his entire life and his whole athletic career. When he was diagnosed, we all collectively were diagnosed. That's not just his immediate family; it extends to every member of Team Frate Train because everyone is all in to fight with and for Pete."

While it doesn't have the long, storied history of the hockey Beanpot, baseball's edition has its memories, most notably the '06 game between the Eagles and Crimson. "People will remember if you do well in that game, and you'll carry that for your entire life," said John. "Just think about that iconic picture and so much joy Pete had when he hoisted that trophy and remember how much joy they had last year when the team got to hoist that trophy."

Those memories and that special feeling is something that will be brought to the Beanpot today, when the four team tournament crowns its 2016 champion at the New England Baseball Complex. But in conjunction with the New England Baseball Complex, all proceeds from the $10 general admission gate per attendee will be donated to the Frates Foundation for ALS Research, attaching Pete's name to the iconic trophy tournament in which he starred 10 years ago.

That Boston College could win the trophy makes it potentially more special for fans following a team wearing maroon and gold. Following that day of his diagnosis back in 2012, the Eagles almost immediately came to support their teammate and show support for a man who was the ultimate friend and competitor.

"The day Pete was diagnosed, he gave us his vision as to what he wanted to do with ALS," said John. "For the next three days straight, he sat in our little office off of our kitchen to his teammates, his coaches, and all of the folks that he ever played against because he wanted people to know that he had this special affliction and this disease. He wanted people to hear it directly from him, not from reading on Facebook or anywhere else.

"About two days after that, Mike Gambino called Pete and asked for him to come into his office," John continued. "We knew Mike a little bit because he was an assistant while Pete was 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. So we sat down on his couch in his office, looked right at Pete and said 'Congratulations you're now my director of baseball operations.' He then pointed right at me and said, 'And you - you're coming with us on every trip.' I was floored, and it was amazing. To let someone into the dugout, where even as a baseball parent I knew never to even look that way, without batting an eye is a testament to his compassion and his character. It stands to the school's testament, to its creed, to its motto to watch them do what they've done for us.

"Boston College, baseball in general, this wonderful sport - it's all about coming together for their band of brothers, and this (the Beanpot) is what that's all about."

The support for Pete extends well beyond the Beanpot into the rest of the national landscape. This past weekend, Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki, himself a former assistant to Pete Frates and later head coach at BC, hosted the fourth annual ALS Game with the Fighting Irish against Boston College. John was invited to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, as was Pete's brother, Andrew.

"This past weekend was so special," said John, "to be out there with Mike, Mik, and (former BC assistant and current Notre Dame assistant) Jesse Woods - was great. Mik would always have me out there almost as a former player, and he would invite me into the dugout to meet all of his players. So now that it's the fourth year, he's inviting me out there and I'm meeting the players for the fourth time, and we're still like buddies.

"And, you know, you could take the shirts off these guys and move them into the other dugout and they're the same quality kid," he continued. "It's a big rivalry - the two biggest Catholic schools in Division I - and yet these guys are banding together for a brother in this wonderful baseball community."

It's that community that will once again rally for Pete this afternoon. With the Harvard Crimson taking on UMass in the consolation game and Boston College defending its championship against Northeastern in the championship nightcap, it's a chance to celebrate Pete the way it should be done - with nine innings of hard-fought baseball between rivals.