Saturday, July 20, 2024

Mike Timlin of the Red Sox takes the field during a 2014 Oldtime Baseball Game at Cambridge’s St. Peter’s Field. (Photo: Oldtime Baseball Game via Facebook)

For nearly 30 years, the Oldtime Baseball Game has been entertaining baseball fans in Cambridge and fundraising for charities and nonprofits. This year, one of its longtime participants isn’t just playing. He’s also raising awareness about a disease that has long affected him and is helping to raise funds to help others who are living with it.

When Aidan Freeburg was a 19-year-old pitcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2014, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that can lead to symptoms that affect the mind and entire body. Since his diagnosis, he has received treatment that has made the disease manageable.

Freeburg does still experience symptoms such as migraines, numbness and overheating, but he nonetheless has been able to continue playing the Oldtime Baseball Game every year it’s taken place since 2015. This will be his eighth game, played at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at St. Peter’s Field, 99 Sherman St., in Neighborhood 9 just east of Fresh Pond, Cambridge. The rain date is the following day.

The 28-year-old Freeburg recognizes he is fortunate to not suffer from the severe symptoms that afflict many MS patients and wants to help those who are not doing as well. “I consider myself very, very lucky,” he says.

Fred Lynn during his 1970s heydays with the Boston Red Sox. (Photo: Oldtime Baseball Game via Facebook)

When the organizers of the Oldtime Baseball Game, led by former Boston Herald and current Athletic columnist Steve Buckley, were deciding which charity to benefit this year, Freeburg suggested that they find a nonprofit that helps people with MS. The Arlington native and resident took it upon himself to search for a beneficiary and met with people from an organization called The Boston Home, which serves adults with advanced multiple sclerosis and other progressive neurological disorders. The Dorchester residential facility was chosen as this year’s beneficiary.

“It’s an incredible place,” Freeburg says. “When Buck and I visited, we talked to some of the patients there and heard their stories, and it’s such a lovely community. They do all sorts of events that really help the patients there and give them lots of freedom. They hold different events like accessible kayaking on the Charles or a Christmas tree lighting, and all sorts of really fun things around Boston. They don’t feel stuck in a bed or a wheelchair. Even with MS they can live a fulfilling and awesome life around there.”

Beyond the excitement he feels to help support a cause so meaningful to him, Freeburg looks forward to playing in a game that features such a lighthearted atmosphere. Players wear throwback baseball uniforms of defunct teams such as the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Browns, creating a sense of nostalgia. Period music contributes to the atmosphere.

One player will wear the New York Knights uniform of Roy Hobbs, from the classic film “The Natural.” Hobbs has a possible local connection: Many have said that one inspiration for the character was former Major League player Eddie Waitkus, who, while playing for the Phillies in 1949, was shot by an obsessed fan. Waitkus grew up on Portland Street in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood and played at Donnelly Field as a child.

Collegiate and amateur players from the area participate in the game, which typically features a former Red Sox player. This year, Fred Lynn, who played seven seasons for the Red Sox, mostly in the 1970s, will serve as the honorary manager. Past games have featured former Sox stars such as Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Tim Wakefield.

Donations to The Boston Home can be made at the Oldtime Baseball Game. You can give online here.