SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: A Fight In Full Swing
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 09:02
“Pete and Mike have been such good friends for so long and they share a lot of the same values, and obviously the love of baseball,” John said. “But I didn’t realize how tight he and Mike really were and how many things they did together until I sat down with them that day.”
The meeting lasted a few hours, and everyone left feeling upbeat and positive, thanks to the determined outlook that Pete was taking.
“He basically took all those qualities that he had as a player and just applied them to this now,” Gambino said.
A few days later, Gambino made Frates an official member of his staff, naming him the director of baseball operations. It was something that Frates had always wanted to do, but he hadn’t even talked to Gambino about it before he heard the news.
“He didn’t ask, he didn’t give me a heads up, or nothing, he just did it,” Frates said. “I read it in a press release. I was like, ‘Okay.’ I called him, I was like, ‘What’s this?’ He goes, ‘Well, if you’re on disability for work, you’re coming to work for me.’ I couldn’t have been more happy.”
Gambino told Frates that he wanted him to be with the team at all times, given all of his experience with BC baseball. He told him it wasn’t some petty promotion, but that he actually wanted Frates to be a part of the staff. His biggest role is to be an adviser to Gambino, someone he could throw around ideas with, and to have a feel for what’s going on around the clubhouse.
Frates’ parents were taken aback by Gambino’s decision.
“I just can’t believe how generous Mike would be to offer a position such as that, knowing full well some of the limitations that might come,” John said. “But he wouldn’t even think anything of it. He needed Pete to be with him.”
Everybody around Frates knew how much the new job meant to him, even more so with the recent diagnosis.
“It kind of—I don’t want to say it made everything right, because nothing is right in this situation—but the joy that it brought to Pete and our family was overwhelming,” Nancy said.
Less than a month after the official diagnosis, Frates was on the road with his new team. It was a weekend series at Virginia Tech, and He traveled down to Blacksburg with the team and his dad, who goes on all the trips.
Before one of the games, Frates gave a speech to the team about the family that is BC baseball. He told the team about the relationships he developed with his teammates while he was at BC, and how much they meant to him.
“He was standing there telling us how he has all those guys from those four years to rely on now to help pick him up in situations where he needs them because of that family and team aspect he developed here,” Bourdon said. “We see it too, the amount of support he has all around him. It’s really amazing.”
Being back on the baseball diamond has reinvigorated Frates. He’s at practice as much as he can be throughout the week, and is at every game, home and away, on the weekends.
“He gets so energized and so much joy from being on any baseball field,” Nancy said. “His face changes when he’s on a baseball field. His whole personality just gets that much more excited.”
His sister said his role as director of baseball operations “brings him back to life,” combining all the things he loves in life: being part of a team, BC, and the game of baseball.
“I think it probably makes him feel about as normal as he possibly can,” Jenn said. “When he’s sitting there, telling people ‘You gotta hold the bat a little bit lower’ or ‘choke up a little bit,’ he can remember how that feels. He can remember choking up on the bat or loosening his swing a little bit or whatever it is.
“It must be kind of cathartic almost for him to talk about it,” Jenn said. “For him to say, ‘My body used to do this, I used to live this. And now with everything I went through and everything I learned and I developed, I can teach others.’”
Gambino has described it as a symbiotic relationship, because just as the experience has helped Pete, he also brings a big presence to the team throughout the season.
“You can’t even describe how important he is to this club,” Gambino said. “He’s been where they’ve been, which is huge. Just in terms of how he goes about everything in his daily life, from how he went about his academics here and now how he’s attacking ALS, he’s always, always positive. It’s positive, it’s aggressive, it’s ‘What can we do to get this thing figured out?’”
“Whenever he’s there, you can just notice the energy on our team goes up,” said sophomore Blake Butera. “One day, maybe we’ll be struggling at practice or moving around slowly. Whenever Pete gets there, it cheers everyone up and gets everyone going again. I feel like there’s a lot of positive energy around Pete whenever he’s here.”
Having Frates around has also given the team a new perspective on life outside of baseball.
“It shows you how precious time is and how important it is to have that time be quality time,” said senior captain Matt Pare.
For Frates, the experience has brought him back to his playing days, and the feeling of being part of a team has him overjoyed.
“It’s everything,” Frates said. “It’s so fun. It gives me another reason to get out of bed every day. Being part of something bigger than yourself is one of the best things you can do. Being part of the team and having the boys accept me for who and what I am made me feel included every day. It means the world. I just love the program so much and I’m so excited to watch it succeed and thrive. Being a part of it just means that much more.”
Watching BC baseball succeed and thrive has always been in Frates’ blood. He wants nothing more for the program to make it to the next level, meaning a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.