Four years ago, Pete Frates, BC ’07 took the nation by storm. The former Boston College baseball star, who had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) back in March of 2012, had become a viral sensation. Along with his friends Pat Quinn—who was also stricken with ALS—and Corey Griffin, Frates began what is known as the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”.
Since the implementation of the challenge, Frates has helped generate over $220 million towards organizations that fight ALS and is credited with raising awareness towards a deadly disease that is still without a cure.
Frates is a BC legend. The impact he has had both on and off the field is unprecedented among other historic Eagles’ athletes. The focus now turns to what more BC can do to preserve his legacy.
The University recently devoted its new Brighton athletics complex to University associate trustee John L. Harrington. With Shea now covered by construction, the next step is to dedicate Birdball’s new field.
Pete Frates deserves the honor.
Now the director of operations for BC baseball, Frates has been making an impact on Birdball since arriving on the Heights back in 2003. The Beverly, Mass. native manned the outfield all four years of his collegiate career, becoming the team’s captain in his senior season after leading the Eagles in home runs the previous spring.
His biggest game came on the biggest stage during his junior year. In the Beanpot Championship against Harvard, Frates went 4-for-4 at Boston’s own Fenway Park with a homerun, a double, and three RBIs, en route to a 10-2 win.
Five years after his baseball career came to an end, Frates was faced with an obstacle that few are able to overcome. Every day, 15 people across the United States receive the same news he did back in 2012. No one expected Frates to make it this far. The average life expectancy for ALS patients is close to two years. Frates has beaten that and then some.
The former BC star decided to get involved in giving back to his community immediately. In the same year as his diagnosis, Frates won the Stephen Haywood Patients Today Award for his advocacy work towards ALS, and months later, the Ice Bucket Challenge was born.
In the summer of 2013, over 1.2 million Facebook videos of an Ice Bucket challenge were posted online. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, LeBron James, and even former president George Bush were all inspired to dump ice cold water onto their heads to raise awareness and donate to Frates’ cause.
While he amassed the most funding towards ALS research and awareness in the 2013 year, Frates’ message lives on today thanks to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. A bill calling for the first week of August each year to be Ice Bucket Challenge Week was passed by Baker, with the ALS Association declaring that the challenge would continue “until there’s a cure”.
On top of that, last summer Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, installed a new city-wide annual holiday—Pete Frates Day—to take place Sept. 5.
In a statement from Walsh per BCEagles.com, the current mayor emphatically proclaimed, “Here in Boston and certainly in Massachusetts, we don’t need to point to heroes in movies or storybooks because we are lucky enough to have a real-life, hometown hero in our midst.”
With the city of Boston doing its part to maintain Frates’ continuing impact, it’s now BC’s turn to do the same.
Shea Field, named after Cmdr. Jon Shea who served in World War II after playing for BC football in the early 20th century, is now just a memory. The decision from the administration to move to Brighton Campus likely means Shea’s 56-year reign is over. The former field itself has too much history in its own right to allow Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond to just slap the old name onto the new field in Brighton.
Meanwhile, the name Frates is much more current, and has meaning to all residing in Chestnut Hill. On Saturday afternoon, BC will host Florida State in the seventh annual ALS awareness game at Fenway Park. Over 2,000 fans have showed up to each game since the inaugural contest, with all ticket proceeds going towards the fight against ALS. And for what it’s worth, the Eagles have won the past three meetings at Fenway.
The number three was retired by BC in honor of Frates two years ago, so it’s clear that BC understands just how much the former captain still means to the program. Frates Field would be inspiring for its hosts—few figures embody the Jesuit tradition of “men and women for others” better than Frates. Every time the Eagles would take the field, they would have Frates name to look up to, literally.
For a team that constantly plays the role of an underdog, BC baseball would have the ultimate David vs. Goliath story at its side. Frates has overcome tremendous odds throughout his journey for ALS advocacy, and has turned his fortune into a true difference-making fight.
Furthermore, BC could use a new name to help bring fans to baseball games. Frankly, with the new stadium hidden within the Brighton campus, the Eagles may find it hard to get the same kind of following that they had at Shea. A name change alone could be enough to warm up the BC student shuttles. If the name Frates can rally and inspire the entire city of Boston, it can certainly bring alumni and the student body together under stadium lights.
With a beautiful brand new stadium up and running, a deserving name is required. While I applaud this past weekend’s dedication, it’s safe to say “Harrington Athletics Village at Brighton Fields” is a mouthful on its own. Frates Field, on the other hand, has a nice ring to it.
Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Senior Staff