The Boston College Eagles see it every day—the courage of Pete Frates, his resolve. Whether they see him at practice or on FaceTime after a game or simply talk to him via text or Facebook messenger, head coach Mike Gambino and the Eagles remain in constant contact with their former captain.
They’ve seen firsthand how Frates has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis since the former Eagle (2004-07) was diagnosed with the disease in March of 2012. Along with Frates, Gambino and the Eagles have tried to bring the fight against ALS to a national stage.
Those efforts will continue this Saturday, as Boston College will play North Carolina State at Fenway Park at 4 p.m. in the Sixth Annual ALS Awareness Game. Tickets are general admission and just $10, with all proceeds benefiting the Pete Frates #3 Fund. The Eagles will play in Frates’ honor, while the Wolfpack will play in honor of former player Chris Combs, who was diagnosed with the disease in May 2016.
However, the ALS Awareness Game is just one method in which the Eagles are bringing awareness to the cause.
Last season, the Frates family, Gambino, Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter and CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s Sean Ryan launched an initiative called “Band Together to Strike Out ALS” in which baseball teams across the country were encouraged to purchase wristbands and play in their own ALS awareness games. The white wristbands, on which “Strike Out ALS” and “PF3” (Pete Frates’ initials and number) are inscribed, are available for purchase here, with proceeds going to Frates’ foundation.
Baseball teams in and around New England as well as the entire Atlantic Coast Conference and teams from the Big 12, MAC and Southern League all participated in the fundraiser a year ago. And the hope is that more and more teams around the country participate this season and in the coming seasons.
“We want this, Band Together to Strike Out ALS, to be for college baseball what Coaches vs. Cancer is for college basketball and what Play 4 Kay is for women’s basketball,” Gambino said. “And I think we’re getting pretty close.”
With May being ALS Awareness Month, Gambino said the plan is for teams around the country to wear the Strike Out ALS wristbands that month or during either of the last two weekends of April—depending on each respective team’s schedule.
Wake Forest, for instance, is planning on wearing the wristbands—and giving some away to fans—when it hosts Boston College May 5-7 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“We’re involved because we believe in Pete Frates and his message and his courage and his story,” Walter said. “He’s just been an unbelievable ambassador for not only the ALS cause but for all of college baseball.
“I have an unbelievable amount of respect for Pete Frates and his family and for Coach Gambino and his program.”
Awareness of Frates’ story and for the fight against ALS reached national prominence during 2014’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—a viral internet campaign in which people dumped buckets of ice water on themselves, filmed it and challenged their friends and family to do the same. That campaign raised $115 million during an eight-week period and helped lead to the discovery of three new genes that could help identify new therapies, according to the ALS Association.
The goal of Band Together to Strike Out ALS, the ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park and other awareness games around the country is to continue that momentum and raise even more money for ALS research, which in time could lead to a cure.
Using baseball as a platform for ALS fundraising is a natural fit.
“Unfortunately, it’s our disease—meaning baseball’s disease,” Gambino said. “I mean, the moniker is Lou Gehrig’s Disease, right? Even in our conference alone . . . half of our conference has a former player that has had or has ALS. Everybody knows about coach Keith LeClair at East Carolina.
“It’s really our disease. It really seems to hit baseball hard. ”
Which is all the more reason for baseball teams to band together against it.