EVERETT — Johnny Adams is a grinder.
The Everett AquaSox infielder plays the game with his socks pulled up high and plenty of dirt on his uniform.
Adams has a source of inspiration for his play. The former Boston College team captain and his fellow Eagles find it in former BC player Pete Frates. Another former captain, Frates was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease five years ago following a standout career with the Eagles.
“Pete is always in the back of our minds when we go out there,” Adams said. “That’s how he’d want us to play and that’s what he did when he was a captain at BC. He was just that gritty player who never really took a day off, always worked his hardest and it’s just who he was as a person and it’s no surprise how well he’s been able to handle the disease.”
Frates is the person behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, the viral video craze that swept the nation three years ago while raising awareness and more than $200 million for ALS research. Though he’s now confined to a wheelchair and communicates through a computer with his eye movements, Frates remains an integral part of the BC baseball program as the director of operations.
“He’s definitely been a big inspiration,” Adams said. “On the field, just going out every day and giving it my best, that’s how I was brought up and how I was raised so that’s what I’ve always done. But some people draw comparisons between myself and him in his playing days, just the way we went about our business. It’s pretty cool to be brought up in the same conversation as him, but he’s done so much more than I’d ever be capable of doing.”
A four-year starter at shortstop for the Eagles, Adams was named the team’s Unsung Hero following his senior season. He was the first-ever junior selected to wear the No. 8 jersey in honor of former BC baseball player Peter “Sonny” Nictakis. Each season a player who represents the best qualities of BC baseball is voted by the team to wear Nictakis’s old number. Adams also wore No. 8 as a senior.
Adams has brought that mindset to Everett. The Seattle Mariners’ 22nd-round pick in this year’s draft, he has shown versatility and the ability to play anywhere he’s needed in the AquaSox infield as he’s bounced from third to short to second and back.
“He’s come every day to work, ready to work and he’s a great teammate,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said. “(He shows) a lot of effort. He comes every day ready to play and learn and put together great at-bats.”
Adams got off to a strong start at the plate in his first professional season. Entering Tuesday, he was slashing .316/.374/.445 with five home runs and 37 RBI in his first 52 games.
Prior to missing several games last week with what was believed to be a hand contusion, Adams had been hitting third in the Everett lineup.
“I think it’s his approach,” Moreno said. “He’s very consistent and mature. He gives real good at-bats and doesn’t try to do too much with the ball. Just keep it simple.”
Adams credits his four-year career in the Atlantic Coast Conference and playing against the likes of Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina and Miami for developing that approach.
“That’s definitely prepared me for this next level,” Adams said. “Week in and week out you’re facing some of the best arms in the nation, so that definitely helps along the way. I think those four years at BC were a learning experience and helped me where I am today.”
For the latest AquaSox news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.