BEVERLY, Mass. — Beaming with ineffable joy, Nancy Frates remembered one more thing to tell NCAA president Mark Emmert before he left her house. She pulled him in close, only somewhat shielding their conversation from the dozens of cameramen posted outside on the front lawn.
It was a parting gift, a token of gratitude for making the trip out to the Frates home in Beverly, Mass. Nothing too fancy—just a bobblehead of her son, Pete, commemorating the Ice Bucket Challenge. The social media campaign, championed by Pete and his family, raised over $220 million for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research and helped scientists discover a key gene linked to the disease.
“I’ll keep it on my desk forever,” Emmert said to Nancy.
But it was Pete, a former Boston College baseball captain and its current director of baseball operations, who received the most significant desk decoration. On Tuesday afternoon, Emmert and other top NCAA officials presented Pete with the 2017 Inspiration Award for impacting so many lives during his battle with ALS.
Due to the progression of his disease, Pete cannot travel to Nashville for the NCAA honors celebration in January. So, for a special member of the BC—and college athletics—community, the NCAA made special accommodations.
When the Frates family heard that the NCAA was going to send a representative to their home, they were thrilled. Then, two days later, excitement turned to astonishment when they got news that the rep would be Emmert himself.
“It was really a simple decision,” Emmert said. “If he can’t come to us, we’ll come to him … It’s such a heartwarming experience to see that kind of love and engagement from family and friends, and even strangers.”
The atmosphere was genuinely uplifting. The entire BC team piled into the Frates’ living room scattered with TV cameras and reporters. Among the audience members were U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass. 6th), a representative from Governor Charlie Baker’s office, and Eastern Kentucky president Dr. Michael Benson, who serves as the chair of the NCAA Honors Committee.
Glancing at the walls of the Frates home, it’s easy to see the impact that Pete has made since his diagnosis four years ago. In one corner, a silver gauntlet from Major League Baseball honors his influence on the game and the ALS community. On another wall, Pete’s iconic No. 3 jersey hangs as a reminder of all that he has done for head coach Mike Gambino’s boys, many of whom look up to Pete like an older brother. Across the room, a sketch of Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken, Jr. pouring a bucket of ice water on Pete is featured above the fireplace.
The 2017 NCAA Inspiration Award will fit in nicely with the rest of Pete’s accolades. But the real measurement of his accomplishments is in how many lives he has touched.
“Pete showed us who we all want to be,” Gambino said. “He showed us that when you live a life of integrity, when you’re a man of character, when your cause is just, people will follow. So we just hope to be Pete’s best followers.”
It’s why an entire mob of players, coaches, and media followed him to his home in Beverly for the ceremony. It’s why some of the most powerful men in America flew through a snowstorm to attend the celebration. And it’s why so many people will always follow Pete’s example.
Featured Image by Riley Overend / Heights Editor