Sports, Spring, Baseball

BC Athletics Officially Unveils Pete Frates Center

When the Boston College baseball community came together on Saturday to officially unveil the Pete Frates Center at Harrington Athletics Village, there was a feeling of accomplishment in the welcoming spring air. 

A mix of former BC baseball players, fans, and BC administrators listened as Frates’ family and those involved with the facility shared stories of his determination and time with BC on Saturday. With sounds of faint glove pops from ongoing baseball and softball games nearby in the background, the maroon curtain draped over the building’s entrance gave way to proud white lettering reading “Pete Frates Center.”

Frates, BC ’07, was a captain of the BC baseball team and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2012 at the age of 27. After his diagnosis, Frates and his family committed themselves to raising awareness of the disease and raising funds for research. As part of his campaign, Frates helped start the ALS ice bucket challenge, a social media initiative that raised over 220 million dollars for ALS research in 2014. 

“We have much to celebrate and many reasons to be grateful,” University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. said at the ceremony. “When people come by this building and see it, and they ask, ‘Who was this Pete Frates?’ I think it will, in turn, help inspire them to reflect on their lives.”

In its completed form, the Frates Center is a 31,000 square-foot baseball and softball facility featuring locker rooms, hitting tunnels, an indoor turf field, strength and conditioning spaces, and a hospitality area. 

The facility is a far cry from the old baseball locker room players had to share with the hockey team, according to Jim Healey, a member of the Yawkey Foundation’s Board of Trustees and a speaker at the event. While it was first opened for use in the fall of 2021, the facility had not been officially unveiled until Saturday. 

BC Athletics Director Pat Kraft took the microphone first on Saturday. 

“I’m very blessed and fortunate to be here because I had absolutely nothing to do with this gorgeous facility,” Kraft joked. “I want to recognize everybody that helped us. This is a family project. I’ve learned in my two years here that everything is about family at Boston College.”

Leahy’s speech was the longest of Saturday’s speakers, and he reflected on how far the BC baseball and softball programs have come, as well as on Frates’ inspiring story and his lasting effect on the BC community. 

John Harrington, chairman of the Yawkey Foundation and the namesake of the Harrington Athletics Village—the complex including both the baseball and softball field as well as the Frates Center—took the mic next and used his time at the podium to reflect on the journey of the facility. He also gave special mention to the Yawkey Foundation, a partner of BC and major donor to the new facility. 

Healey was next to the podium and talked about his involvement in bringing the facility to life and relationship with Frates. 

“[When Frates first] told us about his diagnosis, … he wasn’t morose,” Healey said. “Instead, with a gray, steely determination, he told us he was planning to use all of his energy to raise awareness with the ultimate goal of finding a cure. This was Pete the fighter. … ​​ I felt like I was back on my high school baseball team, and he was my captain.”

Healey was the last speaker before Frates’ family took the podium. 

Despite Frates’ moving story, few eyes watered over the course of the unveiling. Instead, Frates’ brother, sister, and wife shared uplifting stories of his life and thoughts on how honored he would be to see such an important improvement to the BC baseball and softball programs created in his honor. 

First, Frates’ sister Jennifer Mayo, BC ’04, discussed her relationship with her brother and their overlap at BC. 

“I had the great pleasure of being in my senior year at BC with Pete on campus,” she said. “We had a standing date at 9 p.m. on Sundays in the upstairs of our dining hall, which typically resulted in Pete coming to hang out with me and my roommates in our Mod afterwards. I looked forward to Sunday night all week.”

She went on to talk about how it was Frates who turned her into a BC baseball fan and how much of himself Frates dedicated to BC baseball during his lifetime. 

“When I look at his name … on the building behind us—on the campus of this school that he loves so much—built for the team that he dedicated itself to, I think of the little boy who grew up draping himself in BC clothes,” Mayo said. “I think of that college freshman sitting in my Mod in 2004 talking about life and what it would look like. Who could have known what a journey we would all take.”

Frates’ brother Andrew Frates then briefly took the podium before turning it over to Julie Frates, Frates’ wife and BC ’12. She discussed her pride in seeing the completed facility with Frates’ name above the entrance and what BC baseball has meant to her and Frates. 

In a heartfelt moment, she also expressed her hope that one day her and Frates’ daughter, Lucy, might come by the Frates Center with her friends and brag about her dad. 

With Julie’s speech being the last of the ceremony, members of the crowd rose from their seats and made their way over to the entryway to the facility, where the maroon sheet still lay draped above the door. A priest briefly blessed the new building before, on the count of three, the red curtain fell to the ground revealing the text “Pete Frates Center.”

Featured Image by Ethan Ott / Heights Editor

March 27, 2022
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