Fenway Park has long held a special place in the hearts of Pete Frates and his family.
As a young boy, Pete and his grandfather, Jerry D’Alfonso, excitedly made a voyage to Yawkey Way, stopping first at the Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus to quell Pete’s uncanny hunger.
Then, as a 21-year old stalwart on the Boston College baseball team, Pete accomplished what he’d watched others do countless times, depositing a home run in the visitors’ bullpen at Fenway to procure a Baseball Beanpot trophy for the Eagles.
And in 2014, Pete conducted his iconic Ice Bucket Challenge on Fenway’s outfield grass, birthing a movement that has raised more than $100 million in research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease Frates was diagnosed with in 2012.
Saturday, a new chapter was added to the Frates’s Fenway Park scrapbook, bringing Pete’s inspiring story “full circle,” in the words of his father, John. Under a beaming sun in front of the first base dugout, Frates donated four items — a cap and glove from his playing days at BC, and the bucket and sunglasses from his 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge — to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s museum collection, cementing his legacy in a museum that prides itself on commemorating stories that transcend the field.
“The reason we’re here is because of all the tremendous work that Pete has done in taking this disease, and the bad news and the tough luck of what’s happened in his life, and turned it into such a positive,” said Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications and education at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“ALS has always been connected to baseball because of Lou Gehrig. Another one of our Hall of Famers, Catfish Hunter, was afflicted with the disease. Well now, because of what Pete and his family have done in the last few years, we can’t tell the story [of ALS] without including Pete [and] talking about what he’s done, both as a player, and also from the Ice Bucket Challenge.”
On hand for the ceremony accompanying Pete and the soon-to-be enshrined items from his past, were Pete’s parents, John and Nancy, his grandfather Jerry, and current Red Sox, John Farrell and Brock Holt.
Whereas Frates once looked up to those donning Red Sox uniforms, Farrell recalled how that sentiment was reciprocated on the outfield grass back in 2014.
“I think we all gasped for air when a bucket of ice water went over our heads,” Farrell said. “To see Pete, who was in that chair, to take it like we all did [was] an inspirational moment.”
Both John and Nancy Frates exude an abundance of pride when discussing the courage their son has displayed in his fight with ALS, and the awareness he has raised for a disease that has touched so many.
“Here we are, completing that full circle [with] the Hall of Fame recognizing Pete permanently with a display of his equipment,” John said. “How great is this for our family? I’m so proud of Pete; I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“I always had a feeling that he would be talked about, but more for his baseball prowess than what he did off the field, for ALS awareness. But his legacy on this earth is cemented forever, for many reasons. The Ice Bucket Challenge, having that beautiful baby Lucy, and now this: having a display at Cooperstown.”
In perhaps the most stirring moment of the afternoon, Nancy Frates delivered her own commemoration of sorts, choking up as her son’s accomplishments hit her.
“Fenway Park has become a home to us and we couldn’t be more thankful to the Red Sox for hosting us at these most pivotal and iconic moments in our lives,” she said.
“Cooperstown is a place that — I listened to a 3-, 4-, 5-year-old tell me I had to get in the car and drive five hours from Beverly, Mass., because he wanted to go to the Hall of Fame. Well Pete, you’re going to the Hall of Fame. And you’re going to the Hall of Fame in one of the most unbelievable ways possible.”
Owen Pence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.