(Photos by Meg Kelly)

BC senior John West named captain of inaugural Lou Gehrig Community Impact team

It had already been a memorable February weekend for Boston College pitcher John West ’24. Then it got even better.

Starting his last season with BC baseball, West and his teammates were in Arizona preparing to play their second game of the MLB Desert Invitational Tournament. Before the game, he was introduced to Jon “Boog’’ Sciambi ’92, TV announcer for the Chicago Cubs and a leading figure in the fight against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

That was when BC baseball coaches Todd Interdonato and Greg Sullivan told West he had been named to the inaugural Lou Gehrig Community Impact Team, which honors nine collegiate baseball players for community service and philanthropy, contributions to the success of their respective teams, and embodying the spirit and character of the fabled Gehrig.  

There was more: Because he’d received the most votes of the nine, West had earned the title of Community Impact Team captain.  

The honor resounded deeply for West, a Shrewsbury, Mass., native and communication major who has a very personal experience with ALS: His father fought a four-year battle with the neurodegenerative disease before passing away in 2014. Since then, West has devoted time and energy to spreading awareness, raising funds, and making an impact on the lives of those affected by ALS.  

“I hadn’t been expecting it and I really didn’t know exactly what it meant until that moment,” recalled West recently. “It was really cool to share the moment with Todd and Sull, especially having met Boog knowing how passionate he is about the cause.”

On April 25, West and his BC teammates played their 12th annual ALS Game at Fenway Park in collaboration with the Boston Red Sox. It’s an event the Eagles look forward to every season for reasons that some, like West, would call powerful and important.  “We Play for Pete” is the slogan associated with BC’s ALS Game, in memory of former BC baseball captain Pete Frates ’07, whose heroic battle with ALS served as the inspiration for the Ice Bucket Challenge that has helped raise an estimated $220 million worldwide for ALS research.

Created by the Live Like Lou Foundation in partnership with Phi Delta Theta, the Community Impact Team also included players from Georgia Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University, Ripon College, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Wayne State University, Union College (Ky.), and the University of California-Berkeley.

John West '24 named captain of the inaugural Lou Gehrig Community Impact team which recognizes collegiate baseball player for community service, contributing to their team's success, and embodying the spirit of Lou Gehrig.

Paula and Jim Duhamel with John West (Meg Kelly)

As part of his captainship award, West was given $4,000 to support a local family affected by ALS.  Prior to the ALS Game, West was recognized for his Community Impact Team captainship, and—thanks to assistance from Phi Delta Theta, the Live Like Lou Foundation, PerMobil, and Numotion—West presented ALS patient Jim Duhammel a state-of-the-art, motorized BC-branded wheelchair.

Frates’ sister Jennifer Mayo ’04 paid West the ultimate compliment in an interview with ACC Network: “Pete is personified in Johnny. You meet him and he has that same vibrant energy, that spirit, and that aura around him. He is such a kind-hearted soul.”

West is gratified at the increased public awareness of ALS. It was a different story when his father was battling the disease.

“I remember when nobody knew or understood what ALS was,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, Pete Frates comes out with the Ice Bucket Challenge with Pat Quinn”—a friend of Frates who had also been diagnosed with ALS—“and now everyone in the world knows what ALS is. It’s incredible.”

West’s service activities have included Team Impact, a program that helps place children with disabilities and illness with sports teams, the ALS Charitable Foundation, and the Pete Frates Foundation. West is also a volunteer for BC’s Youth Little League Day and Brighton’s Main Street Business Trick or Treat, and is a Welles Crowther Red Bandanna number 19 patch recipient—an honor given annually to a player from each of BC’s sports teams who best personifies the motto “men and women for others.”

West is gladdened by the progress against ALS, but feels there is still much work to be done, and his dedication to the ALS community will continue to persevere. He hopes to play baseball professionally and to leverage that platform to continue spreading awareness of ALS and support for those affected by it. After all, as West says, “this is baseball’s fight to win.”

Meanwhile, as he nears the end of his undergraduate years at the Heights, he is grateful for those who have had such a positive impact on his BC experience.

“This is a really special place full of special people, and what they say about BC is true: It’s a place of men and women for others. I think that’s what I’m going to take with me from my time at Boston College.”