This past weekend proved to be an incredible weekend of baseball, with drama and intensity permeating through diamonds across the national landscape. That was none more prevalent than in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where postseason seeding and qualification wasn't determined until the last possible minute.
But while teams competed hard on the field against one another, there was an underlying theme unifying them. For the final weekend of the ACC baseball season, all 14 teams wore wristbands with the familiar Strikeout ALS logo and the initials "PF3" for former Eagle captain and current director of baseball operations Pete Frates.
As part of a program called "Band Together to Strikeout ALS," all baseball teams wore wristbands with the Strikeout ALS ribbon and Pete's initials on them. These were the same wristbands worn by Boston College throughout the season and worn by both Wake Forest (during the ALS Awareness Game) and the Boston Red Sox (in their annual exhibition game against BC).
The Pete Frates story is one that's been told both many times and not nearly enough. A 2007 graduate of Boston College, Pete was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease - in March, 2012. Over four years later, Pete continues to battle the disease every day, providing an inspiration to millions through both his fight and his message.
The Band Together to Strikeout ALS program was formulated by Boston College head coach Mike Gambino and Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter with assistance from CollegeBaseballInsider.com co-founder Sean Ryan. For a donation of $150, a baseball team at any level can order a set of wristbands which they can wear to help fight the disease.
This is just the latest step in Frates' cause, which has helped raise over $200 million for ALS research (thanks in part to the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge). Through Team Frate Train, the Frates family has helped establish both the Pete Frates #3 Fund and the Frates ALS Research and Support Fund.
This season, Pete's #3 was retired at Shea Field during the ALS Awareness Game against the Demon Deacons.
It's incredibly easy to forget about what matters most on days like Saturday. With all of the postseason implications, teams tend to focus on the scoreboard and voice jubilation or frustration when things go or don't go their way. Like anything else, sports boil down to who wins and who loses, and more than ever this season, that's what Saturday meant to nearly everybody in the conference.
But there's a unifying quality to playing for Pete. It shows that even though everyone's in competition, we recognize what matters most. At the end of the day, this is just a game. ACC baseball teams have strong positioning in the athletics landscape, and it's that positioning that provides an opportunity to do something really great.
Baseball is arguably the third biggest sport in the ACC. It's a non-revenue sport at BC, but it's one of the better attended games in the rest of the ACC. Thursday's game between Florida State and Miami, for example, drew over 4,000 fans, a number right around what North Carolina and NC State drew in the season finale.
So to be able to use that position to offer a positive message is absolutely phenomenal. When Pete was first diagnosed back in 2012, Boston College immediately jumped to the forefront. Since then, they've been paving the road with Pete to raise money and draw awareness. If there's a movement for ALS, Birdball is right there next to him, and it's a tireless, genuine effort without hesitation by both the coaching staff and the players, who look at Pete as their brother.
Four years later, the message and the cause is a national level. It's in the public eye, and Pete is a household name. It's a fight with 13 brother institutions, and it's making a difference. But like Mike Gambino has said before, we can only hope that this is the catalyst to hopefully not be playing ALS Awareness games and to not have to wear wristbands in the future. With any luck, we can make ALS something in a history book.