As the Bruins got back to business after the NHL lifted its lockout, and the players were reacquainting themselves with the rest of the organization, Patrice Bergeron asked Eric Tosi what he'd been up to. This being January, and Boston, the centerman probably didn’t expect to hear that the club's assistant director of media relations had recently been for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
But when the frigid plunge was explained, when Tosi said he did it on behalf of Peter Frates -- the 28-year-old product of Beverly, St. John's Prep, and Boston College who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease last March -- Bergeron wanted to do what he could to similarly support the former college baseball outfielder. Then Tuesday night, he made good on that desire.
Frates and 12 of his friends spent the evening watching the Bruins-Rangers thriller from a TD Garden luxury box as guests of Bergeron, then after the shootout they met with him near the locker room, where the assistant captain traded one of his own game-worn jerseys for one of the red, ribbon-adorned "Frate Train" T-shirts being sold to support the Pete Frates' #3 Fund.
"Patrice is a class act all the way," Frates said. "He's very giving."
Indeed, such meet-and-greets are relatively common for Bergeron, who hosts groups at each Bruins home game as part of his "Patrice's Pals" program. But they've also become fairly common for Frates, around whom a variety of Boston's pro athletes and teams continue to rally in support of his fight against a disease that causes the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
A night after visiting Bergeron and the Bruins, Frates was back at the Garden, where the Celtics honored him as a "Hero Among Us," meeting with Avery Bradley and Carlos Boozer (right) before the game, then receiving an enormous ovation from the sellout crowd as he stood up after being wheeled to center court during a stoppage in play. He's already been saluted at Fenway Park, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch during ALS Awareness Night last season, and earlier this week the Red Sox announced they'll donate the net proceeds from April's Baseball Beanpot to the #3 Fund -- which is named as such because that's the number Frates wore while captain of the BC baseball team.
Those, however, are only the most recent examples of the outpouring Frates has received from the sports world since he was officially diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis less than a year ago. Matt Ryan, who most know as the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback, but Frates knows as one of the first kids he met during orientation at Chestnut Hill, bought some Frate Train gear and sent a picture of himself wearing it after beating the Cowboys early last season. Fellow BC alums Mark Herzlich, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Chris Snee wore his T-shirts while posing in front of the Super Bowl trophies won by their New York Giants. Another ex-Eagle, now-New York Ranger Brian Boyle, met with Frates and his friends during Tuesday's tilt in Boston.
Frates was invited to participate in the "Oldtime Baseball Game" last summer, and that night Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington presented him with a No. 3 Sox jersey. He met Bruins legends Derek Sanderson and Bobby Orr for a private book signing. He had dinner with Ray Bourque at Tresca. Former NFL safety Steve Gleason, who also has ALS, wears his gear. Curt Schilling held up a Frate Train T-shirt during an airing of ESPN's "Baseball Tonight." Frates has also received a lot of support from Kevin Youkilis, who's friendly with BC baseball coach Mike Gambino.
And that says nothing of all the immense fundraising and awareness initiatives spearheaded by his family and by people throughout the BC, BC Baseball, St. John's, Beverly, and Intercity League communities. They travel the globe with his T-shirts. They plan and participate in events, like the "Plunge 4 Pete" in which Tosi partook. They advocate however they can.
"It's just so humbling and touching that these guys will take time out of their season to show support for a fellow athlete," Frates said by phone Wednesday while awaiting the car the Celtics were sending to take him to the Garden. "It means a lot any time someone uses their sphere of influence or ability to reach a lot of people to help someone else.
"I admire that greatly."
The feeling is clearly mutual.
Frates will travel to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25 to speak at a public FDA hearing held on the agency's regulations on drugs for the treatment of ALS, and will be getting married this June. For more information, to order Frate Train merchandise, or to contribute to the Pete Frates #3 Fund, visit petefrates.com.
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