“What Pete’s doing is educating a whole generation to this disease,” Nancy Frate s said, noting that most remember Lou Gehrig as a historical figure at best. “He is galvanizing a whole new generation to understand this disease, and to the reality that they could be walking down the street and this could happen to them, to anyone.”
While he was not formally diagnosed until March, Frates first noticed symptoms during the 2011 Intercity League season. Back then, he was working as a group insurance salesman for Humana, living in South Boston, and playing for the Lexington Blue Sox.
In a game last August, a pitched ball hit Frates on his hand, near the wrist. His slow recovery — a year later it has still not healed — was the trigger that got him to the doctor and got him researching it online, but there were other signs. While he was in great shape, there was twitching in his upper arms following races and workouts, and his batting average dropped more than 100 points from the previous year.
“There was one game I went 0-for-4, four groundouts with four broken bats,” he said. “That never happened in my life.”
He felt he was losing speed, and shortly after the season his energy level started dropping.
Because his sore hand led him to a series of doctors and the eventual diagnosis of the disease (ALS requires a lengthy diagnosis), Frates said, “Baseball might end up saving my life.”
These days, he lives in an addition at his parents’ Beverly home. He volunteers as director of baseball operations at Boston College, and collects disability insurance. Coincidentally, he noted, “I’m actually on the [insurance] product I sold.”
Among the things covered by the Pete Frates #3 Fund are the experimental drugs that he believes have slowed the progress of the disease.
He has followed news about ALS, which in recent years has been hopeful, as genetic research has yielded new evidence and clues.
“I’m optimistic that people today with ALS will have another drug, or two, that could slow their illness down,” said Cudkowicz, who acknowledged that determining how to stop or prevent it may take longer.
While social media sites have helped people spread the word about Frates and helped with fund-raising, BC baseball coach Mike Gambino thinks the crusade would have happened with or without them.
“I attribute it to how special a kid Pete is, how special of a family the Frates family is, and also I think, you’re attracted to people like you,” Gambino said. “His makeup is so special. He is such a great kid, always trying to help people. He cared so much for everybody around him, and those are the kind of people he’s surrounded himself with. It’s a tribute to Pete and his family and a tribute to the people around him that as soon as this happened, they just rallied in all these different social circles. “If you took social media out of it, everyone would have figured out a different way to spread the news.”
David Rattigan can be reached at DRattigan.Globe@ gmail.com.