Aug. 6, 2012
Cambridge, Mass. - Members of the Boston College baseball team will participate in the 19th Annual Injured Workers Pharmacy Oldtime Baseball Game on Monday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. at St. Peter's Field in Cambridge. Director of Baseball Operations Pete Frates will start at first base for the first pitch while head coach Mike Gambino will play second base. Frates was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in March 2012 at 27 years old.
Incoming freshman Chris Shaw, who Frates encouraged Gambino to recruit two years ago, will replace Frates after the first pitch. Senior catcher Matt Paré will also be in the game, as well as former BC basketball standout and current color commentator Malcolm Huckaby.
Players in the Oldtime Baseball Game wear a collection of flannel uniforms that represent virtually every era in baseball history. The event is free and the money raised from sponsorship benefits a charity each year. This year's game is being played as a benefit for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts. Funds raised for this year's game will be used to purchase Emergency Response Vehicles to respond to disasters in our area.
"I think this game is just so cool," Frates said. "I like to think of myself as a kind of throw-back player. I'm not particularly skilled at one thing. I like to play the game hard and I'm very traditional in the sense that I have a lot of superstitions. I love the sound of the bat, the smell of the grass, and all the cliché `Field of Dreams' stuff. It's a really cool thing to be a part of."
"It's an awesome idea," Gambino followed up. "It's great for baseball around here. It gives fans a great baseball experience to combine the old-time uniforms and the charity aspect of it. I am really glad that the BC program can be involved."
The last time Frates put on a baseball uniform was in the summer of 2011, when his Lexington Blue Sox won their fifth consecutive Intercity League title. He played on the team in 2007 and from 2009 through 2011. Two years ago, after Gambino, who was an assistant at BC for two years when Frates played, was named the Eagles' head coach, Frates called him and told him to come watch his Blue Sox teammate, Shaw, hit.
"I might have suggested Mike come over and watch him hit, because he is a sight to see," Frates said. "Anyone would have benefited from seeing him hit batting practice."
"I've known Pete a long time, so when he tells me to come see a kid, I am going to go," Gambino said. "I went and saw [Shaw] only a week and a half after I got the job. Pete is playing and Chris is there and I watched him and I knew. Pete started the process because they were teammates and they are always going to have that connection.
"[Shaw] is a first baseman, outfielder and left-handed hitter with a special bat. He is going to get the chance to hit and he is going to hit with a lot of power. He is a really good player and an even better kid."
Frates joined the BC baseball staff soon after his diagnosis. Gambino cannot stress the importance of his presence among the Eagles.
"Now-a-days, everyone is looking for heroes and for us as a program to have him around all the time, in our dugout, traveling with us, is unbelievable," he said. "To be able to handle what he is handling and face that type of adversity and attack it the way he has, shows what type of role model he is for our players. He is such a positive for our team and I keep telling people how lucky we are to have him with us."
At the media day for the old time game, Frates' positivity showed through.
"I get asked all the time, `What are your future plans?'" he said. "ALS is an uncertain diagnosis and an uncertain prognosis but the way this disease works is the muscles are just not working for a little bit, so as soon as we figure out how to turn the light switch back on, I'll be back on the field. People would ask me when I was going to stop playing for the Blue Sox, and I would say, when they drag me off the field."
Frates will be wearing Red Sox legend Ted William's uniform after he and Steve Buckley, creator of the annual game and Boston Herald columnist, thought about Lou Gehrig's number four.
"I love Lou and he is very important to me right now, but he was a Yankee. Plus I am going to with the home team, so we settled on the No. 9 Ted Williams uniform," Frates said. "I am a lefty [like Williams] so it worked out well."
Other notable players in the game include WEEI talk-show host Lou Merloni, who played nine seasons in the major leagues, including six seasons with his hometown Boston Red Sox, and Skip Flanagan of Framingham, thefirst deaf player to appear in the Oldtime Baseball Game. Flanagan is entering his sophomore year at the Rochester Institute of Technology.