CHICAGO – The Orioles have a close connection to the inspiration behind the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that has swept the nation recently and raised awareness and funding for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Bullpen catcher Jett Ruiz was a college teammate of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates — a 29-year-old who has ALS and has been credited for fueling momentum of the challenge.
It picked up steam in Boston after Frates challenged family and friends on social media and area athletes followed suit, later followed by numerous athletes and celebrities around the nation.
Ruiz said it wasn’t that long ago when Frates, who is now confined to a wheelchair and has lost the ability to talk because of the advanced state of the disease, was one of the Eagles’ best players, a team captain and an energetic team leader.
Frates also hosted Ruiz on his visit to Boston College, and Ruiz said he was convinced early that he wanted to play college baseball across the country from his hometown of San Diego. Ruiz played with Frates for three years, often hitting right behind him in the middle of the Eagles’ lineup.
“He’s just a great guy, one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with,” Ruiz said. “A team captain when I was there, just full of energy. For him to do what he’s doing now with ALS and raising awareness with the ice bucket challenge, it doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s just one of those people who is just so energetic — a real people person who just wants to see the best for everyone — even in the situation he’s in.”
Ruiz said he found out of Frates’ diagnosis when it happened in 2012, and he attended an ALS fundraiser concert last September organized by some of their college friends to benefit the ALS Association.
“I wanted to get back there and get a chance to see him,” Ruiz said.
Several Orioles have participated in the ice bucket challenge, including Showalter, center fielder Adam Jones, third baseman Manny Machado and first-base coach Wayne Kirby. Ruiz said he has done the challenge on his own and hopes to post it online soon.
The momentum of the challenge has helped the ALS Association raise $22.9 million in donations from July 29 to Aug. 19, compared to $1.9 million raised last year in the same period.
Other items of note on Wednesday morning:
- Through five games of their nine game road trip, Orioles pitchers have a 2.40 ERA.
- With his first-inning ground-rule double Tuesday, Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce had five extra-base hits (four doubles and one homer) over his last three games. He is 6-for-14 with three runs in that span.
- Nick Hundley’s seventh-inning homer was his first since July 5 in Boston and snapped an 0-for-9 hitless streak.
- Tommy Hunter recorded his fifth straight scoreless appearance (spanning 5 2/3 innings) with a perfect ninth on Tuesday.
- Even though Nick Markakis’ 10-game hitting streak was snapped Tuesday with an 0-for-4 night, he is still hitting .391/.468/.580 with three homers and five RBIs in 17 games this month.