Irish face Boston College in emotional series
Aaron Sant-Miller | Friday, April 11, 2014
When Notre Dame and Boston College meet in Chicago for a three-game series, the games will be about more than baseball. All the ticket revenue generated from the series will be donated to the Pete Frates #3 Fund, a foundation set up by former Boston College outfielder and current director of baseball operations Pete Frates. In March of 2012, at the age of 27, Frates was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“[ALS] has really begun to take a physical toll on him, the way that this horrible disease does,” Irish coach Mik Aoki said. “So we’re using the weekend and trying to raise awareness for it and for Pete.”
Before beginning his career at Notre Dame (12-20, 1-14 ACC) four years ago, Aoki coached at Boston College (10-22, 2-13 ACC). When Aoki began as an assistant at Boston College, Frates was beginning his freshman year. Frates became Aoki’s first captain during his first season as the Eagles head coach. “[Frates is] just a phenomenal kid from a phenomenal family; a really, really, really good kid and a high-energy kid,” Aoki said. “He would fit on the Notre Dame campus just the same way he did on the Boston College campus.”
Started in 2012, the Pete Frates #3 Fund has had a variety of fundraising events over the years, including Plunge 4 Pete, a December dip into chilly Gloucester, Mass., water.
“The foundation’s fund that we have goes in large part to trying to raise awareness as well as covering his medical costs,” Aoki said. “At this point he needs an automated wheelchair, he needs a computer that allows him to continue to communicate with the outside world because that’s becoming more and more difficult for him. There’s a ton of costs, things that you and I take for granted, like changing our clothes and brushing our teeth and things that people have to do for him at this point.”
During his senior season and Aoki’s first as a head coach, Frates hit .242 with five home runs, 27 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
“This weekend means a lot to me, and we’re just trying to raise some money for Peter to cover his medical costs and help him in his battle to raise awareness of this disease,” Aoki said. “He has tackled it head-on. He’s been such an inspiration in the way that he has gone about this. It would have been really easy and really understandable for him to just go into his shell and feel sorry for himself about this thing, but he hasn’t. He’s taken the absolutely opposite of whatever that would be. He’s a kid that I love dearly, and I want to help him and his family to the best of my abilities.”
Though both teams have continued to place an emphasis on Frates and this cause, Boston College and Notre Dame still do face each other as an ACC matchup.
“Obviously this is a team that’s struggled a little bit in the conference but they’ve pitched pretty well and we’ve pitched it pretty well from time to time, so I think it will be a good, competitive series,” Aoki said. “Obviously there’s a little bit of a rivalry factor between BC and Notre Dame, the two major football-playing Catholic universities in the country. We’re going to continue to get better, more like the team we were [against Michigan].”
Though Boston College has a team batting average of .225 and a team ERA of 4.31, those marks are below Notre Dame’s team batting average of .248 and team ERA of 3.35.
“[The Eagles] play really hard and they’ve gotten some good pitching performances, in particular, out of their top two guys, [junior right-handed pitcher] John Gorman and [redshirt sophomore left-handed pitcher] Andrew Chin,” Aoki said. “Those two are certainly capable of shutting anybody down. I would say [Boston College] pitch it fairly well; they’re struggling a little bit at the plate; they defend it okay.”
Though both teams have struggled in the ACC, combining for only three wins, the teams combine for 19 non-conference wins.
“I think they’ve been competitive all year long. I think they’ve been very similar to our tale, a lot of close games where they’re right on the doorstep but haven’t been able to walk through, so I think it’s one of those things where we have to go there, we have to worry about ourselves and play well.”
The first game will be played today at 8:05 p.m., followed by a 3:05 p.m, game on Saturday and a 2:05 p.m, game on Sunday. All three games will be played at Chicago State University Baseball Stadium in Chicago, Ill., where all ticket revenues will go directly to the Pete Frates #3 Fund.