BOSTON, Mass. — For baseball players, arriving early for a game at Fenway Park is requisite. As the oldest ballpark in MLB, its history and idyllic nature make it impossible to miss. Its quirks, asymmetry, and intimate feel are what make it unique. From the tang of a Fenway Frank to the sound of a ricocheted ball recoiling off the Green Monster, Fenway has a breathtaking charm that newer, fancier ballparks can’t compete with.
Despite a 6–1 loss for Boston College baseball (15–24, 3–17 Atlantic Coast) against No. 8 Virginia Tech (27–9, 11–7) in the 10th Annual ALS Awareness Game—which honored the late Pete Frates, BC ’07—Fenway did its magic dance again on Saturday night.
“It never gets old,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said after the game. “Honestly, whether you’re coming as a fan or on a tour, or you’re lucky enough to have the ability to play here, this place is so special. It’s so magical every single time.”
When the “Frate train” chants bellowed from the nearly 4,000 fans in attendance of the game, BC’s dugout came alive, and the momentum shifted in favor of the home team from the first pitch.
“It’s one of the things we do here at BC,” Gambino said. “We teach kids to leave as men and women for others. Pete was one of our all-time best examples, so to be able to honor him and have a tangible thing for our students and alumni to say ‘This is what you can do if you get a Jesuit education,’ that’s special.”
Hurrahs from the grandstands echoed through Fenway. Frates, who captained BC baseball in 2007, became a driving force behind the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 27. He returned to BC as the director of baseball operations in 2012. Through the Ice Bucket Challenge, he helped raise over $220 million toward research for a cure for ALS.
In the first inning, the Eagles quickly jumped to a 1–0 start. Leadoff hitter Travis Honeyman—playing through a foot injury—knocked a line drive into center field to get the action underway.
BC faced Virginia Tech pitcher Drue Hackenberg, who emerged as a key piece for the Hokies’ pitching rotation and ranks second in the ACC in ERA. While the true freshman didn’t fall into a rhythm until the third inning, Hackenberg finished the contest with seven strikeouts and one earned run through seven innings.
Cameron Leary was up to bat next, and the power hitter tipped a roller that dribbled out just feet in front of home plate. Virginia Tech catcher Cade Hunter bare-handed the ball to make the out at first with Honeyman on the run to second. Luke Gold popped out next, and the Hokies intentionally walked Joe Vetrano.
With runners on first and second, Parker Landwehr stepped to the plate and the Monster swallowed his roped shot, scoring Honeyman.
Had the affair been played at the Harrington Athletics Village, the outcome of that one run would have played out differently. Landwehr’s wall-ball single would have instead been a three-run homer over a much shorter left-field fence, but the Green Monster’s height kept the ball inside the park.
“We’re one hit away or one play away,” Gambino said. “This team is so close even with all the injuries so far. I feel bad for this group, but the direction of the future of this program in the next couple of years—there’s a lot to be excited about.”
The Eagles’ one score was all they mustered. The Hokies, however, scored six unanswered runs off the bats of Gavin Cross, Lucas Donlon, and MLB prospect Jack Hurley, who entered the game boasting a 1.300 OPS. Hurley stayed red hot, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs.
With Evan Moore pitching in the ninth inning, the Hokies scored two runs. After Donlon singled through the left side, Nick Biddison chopped a grounder to third baseman Patrick Roche, who scooped the ball and blundered the throw to second base, which would have secured a turn-two double play.
Tanner Schobel and Hurley brought in one run each on a flyout and a single.
“Twelve-hour rule,” Gambino said. “If you’re fired up, stay fired up for 12 hours. If you’re crushed like you feel right now, you got 12 hours, and by tomorrow you’ve got another baseball game to win.”