From the Ice Bucket Challenge to the Oldtime Baseball Game, Pete Frates Makes a Lasting Impact for ALS Research

The Frate Train keeps on rolling.

Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball captain and Beverly native, has emerged as the national spokesman for the fight to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and has been the inspiration behind the national phenomenon known as the Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video and posting it on social media.

Frates, who has lived with ALS since 2012, participated in the challenge last week even though his condition does not allow the cold to leave his body in a timely fashion.

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“I was behind him when he did it,” Nancy Frates said Monday. “When I saw the video of it, it took my breath away to see his face. He’s doing fine. He was a real trooper afterwards, he actually stayed for the game. So he did great… that was the perfect way to wrap it up and turn the page for the next chapter. And the next chapter is looking at the accountability piece as to getting the ALS patient community the most impact…

“People pouring ice over their head got the attention, right, I think what is most important is the ripple effect. Will the social media phenomenon stop? Well, probably. Maybe somebody is going to try to pick it up and try to do it for another cause. The most important piece is the ripple effect. When ALSA (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association) says they’ve got $15.5 million raised and they’ve added over 300,000 new donors to their database, but not only that, their gala tickets are selling, their walk to defeat ALS, all the ALS associations are feeling this incredible ripple effect from the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Mike Gambino, the current Boston College head coach who managed Frates when he played for BC, remains close to the Frates family and the ongoing efforts to fight the terrible disease.

“Pete’s dad John summed it up better than I could, he said last week ‘for two years we’ve been trying to do everything we can to raise awareness. Who knew all we needed was a bucket of ice?,” Gambino said.

While the Ice Bucket Challenge movement is primarily associated with Frates, the movement did not begin with him.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge has its roots in other charities on a much smaller scale,” Nancy Frates said. “Pete’s friend Pat Quinn, who also suffers from ALS, he also was 30 years old, and he and Pete have become very good friends, Pat is a year behind diagnosis than Pete, and Pat started on Long Island with their friends and family. Pat and Pete have mutual friends that live in Manhattan, Pete’s roommate from Boston College happens to be one of them, so I remember the day I saw Phil Holden, Pete’s roommate, doing the Ice Bucket Challenge after I had seen everybody on Long Island doing it. And it was from that point on that Pete’s connections and relationships took it to the next level.”

Gambino spoke about why Frates was the ideal person to lead the movement nationally.

“The overarching thing you remember about Pete as a player was his character, his toughness, his work ethic, his integrity,” Gambino said. “All of those things combined are what made him so universally respected by all his teammates and it made him such a great leader on the baseball field and the diamond when he was in college and it’s what sort of laid the foundation for him to lead this national movement.”

This week, ESPN produced a seven-minute SportsCenter segment video that chronicles Frates’ battle with ALS and the work he’s been doing to raise awareness and funds to find a cure.

“It was amazing for our whole family to watch it, it really was,” Nancy Frates said. “I have to say it really did kind of get to me when I saw Pete talking. I have home videos of it, but to see him talking on TV was something else.”

Next up for Frates is that he will be honored at the 21st annual Oldtime Baseball Game taking place Monday Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. at St. Peter’s Field in Cambridge.

The annual game includes amateur players from schools throughout the Boston area and beyond wearing traditional flannel uniforms that represent teams such as the old Boston Braves, St. Louis Browns, Homestead Grays, and Kansas City Monarchs. This year’s game is being played this year as a dual fundraiser for the ALS Therapy Development Institute of Cambridge and the Pete Frates #3 Fund.

“The game has always been a special point for Pete,” Nancy Frates said. “It celebrates not just the winning and the losing, it celebrates the history, it celebrates the culture, it celebrates the strategy, and it celebrates the bond that the people in baseball [have].”

Many friends and former teammates of Frates are participating in the game this year. Some are flying in from around the country. And for the first time, two former members of the Red Sox will be playing in the game: Mike Timlin and Lou Merloni. Merloni has long participated in the annual fundraiser while Timlin, who lost his mother to ALS and has been a tireless advocate to help find a cure, will be participating in the game for the first time. He is expected to pitch a few innings in between signing autographs.

“This game holds a very special part in our whole family’s lives.” Nancy Frates said. “Steve Buckley (who has put the annual game together since 1994) has become a very good friend and supporter of Pete and it’s such a wonderful event in and of itself. It celebrates baseball and if there’s anything that my son loves, other than his family, his wife, and his friends, it’s baseball.”

In addition, Frates will become the fifth recipient of the Greg Montalbano Award. Montalbano, a former Red Sox minor leaguer who died of cancer in 2009 at the age of 31, played in the Oldtime Baseball Game in 1997 and ’98. The award is presented each year to a former Oldtime Baseball Game participant who best exemplifies Montalbano’s spirit, competitiveness and good nature.

Admission to the Oldtime Baseball Game taking place on Monday is free, and fans are asked to bring blankets or chairs and to sit along the St. Peter’s Field foul lines. The rain date for this year’s game is Tuesday, Aug. 26, also at 7 p.m.

For more information about this year’s game, visit