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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: A Fight In Full Swing

Heights Senior Staff

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 09:02

“Being a premier baseball destination for college-bound athletes in the country,” Frates said when asked what his dreams are for BC baseball. “There’s no other way to cut it. If you want to play at the highest level, you want to play for a great coaching staff and get a top-notch education, where the hell else are you going to go?”

Frates knows what BC is up against as a Division I baseball school in the Northeast—the weather, all of the traveling, the academics, and the list goes on. But that’s not stopping him from trying his hardest to help the program get to the top.

That same determination and energy is what makes Frates excited to wake up every day, ready to face ALS head on.

Ever since he was diagnosed with the terminal disease, Frates has been using his platform as a chance to make a difference.

“I figured ‘Shit, I’ve been given so much in life that let’s use this as an opportunity to get the word out,’” Frates said.

What frustrates Frates about ALS is that there have been no real breakthroughs in terms of treatment for the disease. With other diseases, there are treatments and regiments to undergo. But with ALS, there is only one FDA-approved drug, a few vitamin supplements, and still no a cure.

“The fact that modern medicine’s been around about 100 years, Gehrig died over 70 years ago—the fact that there’s been literally zero progress made on this disease is insane,” Frates said.

Frates is trying to use his young age and enthusiasm as a way to create awareness about ALS, a disease that a lot of people don’t know much about.

“It’s a debilitating disease,” Frates said. “It’s not fun for me. At this point, I really don’t give a shit. To have people look at me in a wheelchair or a scooter and hear me slur my words a little bit or see my hands kind of curled up like this, at first kind of bothers you.

“People stare at me all day. I’ll have my young, beautiful fiancee [BC graduate Julie Kowaliak, who Frates is set to marry on June 1] pushing me. I’ll be well-dressed, an okay-looking guy, and outwardly it doesn’t look like anything is wrong. But all of a sudden, this young blonde is pushing me around in a God-damn wheelchair. People don’t know what to think. But I’m happy about that, because I use the juxtaposition of that image with the disease and I want people to take a second look and be like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?’

Since his diagnosis last year, Frates’ physical capabilities have been progressively getting worse. It frustrates him having to rely on people for things that he used to be able to do by himself.

Mentally, however, Frates is completely on point.

“This disease is relentless and it’s just savagery of this once strong, powerful, 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete,” his father said. “But his mind is so sharp as ever.”

Frates likes to tell his dad that he’s smarter now than he ever has been, due to his decreasing physical capacity.

“My brain is perfectly intact,” Pete said. “If I can’t walk or throw a ball as well, I like to think my brain is getting smarter. That was the one thing I didn’t really realize about ALS and that a lot of people don’t. You see a guy or a gal with ALS and they’re in a wheelchair with a respirator and a feeding tube, and they look like they’re totally checked out. It’s quite the contrary. They are so in tune with what’s going on. Their brain is perfectly fine."

“Unfortunately this disease is relentless and it’s just savagery of this once strong, powerful, 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete,” John said. “But his mind is so sharp as ever.

Before being diagnosed with ALS, Frates’ worst nightmare in life was being buried alive. Now, he’s afraid that might be a reality if a cure isn’t found soon.

“Guess what? With this disease, if we don’t change something, that’s how ALS patients go out,” Frates said. “They’re buried alive in their own body. It’s not a very fun existence. So that’s the main reason I get up every day and try to spread the word and do what we do here.”

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Frates wakes up every day happy. He’s surrounded by his family and huge network of friends, and he is excited every day to see them. His situation makes him think about the people who face ALS alone. That’s who he’s fighting for.

“That’s a pretty remarkable outlook,” Jenn said. “He’s always been a special kid. He never ceases to surprise me.”

Since the day he was diagnosed with ALS, Frates and his family have received an outpouring of love from everyone around them, especially from all the people who had met Frates along the way.

“[Pete] has always given love,” his mother said. “But the love that he’s a recipient of fuels him every day. From people that he has known since he was a young kid to his high school to college to work to people that he’s worked out with, and most of all to the teammates on all the teams that he’s been with.”

Frates’ attitude and perspective on life is what amazes the people around him the most. He knows that he can’t do anything about having ALS. He can’t control that. What he can control, he’s making sure he does.

“It’s like when people complain at the airport: ‘The plane’s late, this, that…’” Frates said. “I feel like going up to them and saying, ‘Excuse me. Do you have a switch that turns the rain on and off? Are you flying the plane? Then sit down and shut up.’ You control what you can control. What I can control is staying healthy, keeping my body weight up, and just staying as positive as possible and not letting this thing drag me down one bit.”

Anybody who comes into contact with Frates can tell that he hasn’t let the horrific disease pull him down at all. His mother says that instead, the disease has brought out the best in her son, even if that might sound incredulous.

“He feels that he’s been chosen for this, and I do believe that,” Nancy said. “I believe that all of Pete’s experiences up to the day of diagnosis prepared him to take this role on.”

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