By Phil Stacey
---- — Nick Asselin can tell a lot of stories about Pete Frates from when the two were baseball teammates at Boston College.
He states that Frates was “hands down” the strongest kid on the baseball team. Asselin recalls with absolute clarity how he drew people to him with his easygoing, friendly manner. He laughs when he thinks of Pete as the guy outside in the winter walking around without a coat on, yet never remembers him being sick even once.
So like many people, Asselin couldn’t believe it when he learned that Frates had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in March 2012. And like so many people, he wanted to do whatever he could, no matter what it was, to help his good friend.
So Asselin, along with another good friend and ex-teammate of Frates’, Adam Crabtree, have put together ‘Country Strikes Out ALS’, a night of country music at the House of Blues in Boston on Thursday, Sept. 12 to raise both awareness and funds towards fighting this dreaded disease. The show begins at 8 p.m.
“We wanted to take Pete’s vision of awareness to the next level and help him through monetary contributions,” said the 28-year-old Asselin, who grew up in Bedford, N.H. “By doing this, we’re able to take Pete’s story outside the realm of baseball to an new audience.”
Joe Nichols, a country singer with hits such as ‘Brokenheartsville’, ‘Gimmie That Girl’ and, most recently, ‘75 and Sunny’, will headline the event at the House of Blues. Chase Rice, who co-wrote the No. 1 hit “Cruise” (sung by Florida Georgia Line) will also perform that night, while Sam Hunt (who has written songs for Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney, among others) will perform an acoustic set. In addition, former Boston College classmate Ayla Brown, daughter of former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, will also perform.
Asselin said that he and Crabtree contacted Ginny Rogers, a North Shore native and the music director at WKLB, Country 102.5 in Boston, as well as program director Mike Brophy. They were extremely helpful in putting the two BC graduates as far as meeting different artists, who’d be a good fit for an event such as this and connecting them to Nichols. For everyone they met, Asselin and Crabtree would explain Pete’s story, his positive outlook on beating ALS and what their vision was.
“The radio station has been great,” said Asselin, who roomed with Frates when both were juniors in college. “They do a lot with Floating Hospital for Children in Boston, and Ginny’s from the area and her son attends St. John’s Prep (like Frates did), so they knew Pete’s story. She facillatated everything: who to talk to, who to get in touch with.”
Another key person in making this happen, said Asselin, is John Innamorato, the New England representative for Live Nation, which is putting on the Sept. 12 show.
Asselin said that he and Crabtree are both passionate about country music — and their friendship with Frates. Spending so much time together playing college baseball, from 6 a.m. lifts and running five days a week until 9 p.m. at night when they’d get out of study hall, the Eagles baseball team spent a lot of time together bonding. Those bonds, said Asselin, are unbreakable.
“The way you get through this is that you know he’s still the same Pete, the guy who’ll always be there for you but never ask for anything back,” said Asselin. “ALS is the team he’s playing for now, and if any one of us were in his situation, he’d be the first one to help us out. So we’re going to help and support him any way that we can.
“We’re trying to raise awareness, sell some tickets and hope everyone has a great time.”
To purchase tickets for ‘Country Strikes Out ALS’ at the House of Blues in Boston on Thursday, Sept. 12., go to www.ticketmaster.com. To donate, please visit www.group33mgmt.com.