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Former MLB Player

Ep. 69: A Talk With Former Big Leaguer Jeff Frye | A Baseball Podcast

Geoff Rottmayer March 16, 2020


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A Talk With Former Big Leaguer Jeff Frye

Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development

Guest Bio:

Jeff Frye – Former Big Leaguer for the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Soxs, Colorado Rockies, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Summary:

On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayer sits down with Jeff Frye,Former Big Leaguer for the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Soxs, Colorado Rockies, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Show Notes: In this conversation, Jeff talks about:

  • His back ground in baseball.
  • Where his ability to hit came from.
  • High school and college days on the ball field.
  • Life as a professional athletes.
  • His approach while he is hitting.
  • The difference between hitting and swinging.
  • His routines to hitting.
  • Middle infield and how exhausting it is.
  • and much more.

Website: www.baseballawakening.com

Facebook: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Twitter: Baseball Awakening Podcast

Instagram: The Baseball Awakening Podcast

Email Address: geoff@baseballawakening.com

Geoffrey Rottmayer
On today’s show, we sit down with Jeff fry, a former big leaguer, and we learn a little bit about him. And we’re talking from baseball.

Intro
Welcome to another episode of the baseball awakening podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host, Jeff rottenmeier.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Welcome to the baseball Whitney podcast. I’m Geoffrey Rottmayer. Today I’m sitting down with Jeff fry, who spent nine years in the big lead with the Texas Rangers. The Boston Red Sox, the Colorado Rockies, and Toronto Blue Jays. Jeff, how are you sir?

Jeff Frye
I’m doing good. Geoff. How are you?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I’m doing great. You know, I appreciate you coming on. You know, Jeff, you got meant them. Hi. In the big league, you know, something that baby people have gotten to do. And so we’re excited to kind of learn you know, to listen and learn from you and the experiences that you had the let us kind of start with Jeff the younger player and developing into the big Laker.

Jeff Frye
Yeah, I mean, I when I was you know little guy, I started playing Little League at eight years old and, and we that was before t ball. You know, we didn’t have people. So when you’re eight years old man you had to fish it was no coach pitch or, you know that guy. We were right in the middle of it. So I just loved baseball. I grew up in a baseball family and you know, went to high school and started playing baseball and then and then off to was actually moved to Oklahoma, Panama, Oklahoma, my junior year in high school from California and didn’t know what I was going to do after high school. It’s a lot different than it is now these kids nowadays seem to their futures already lined up, you know. They know they’re going to college after their sophomore years, stuff like that. And I didn’t know what I was going to do but I was pretty good in basketball so well one of the local junior colleges at in World War Two Eastern offered me a basketball scholarship. And that summer I played for spiral American Legion had a great summer playing baseball, and actually got over two days got 15 hits in a row and the low another Junior College, Carl Alber asked me to come to Carl Albert and play both baseball and basketball. So that’s kind of how I progressed from high school. I realized pretty quick that basketball was not going to be my future. I just really started folks and had never lifted weights in my life. And I graduated high school at five, five 135 pounds going to college and played basketball for the three point line, you know,but so I played two years of Carl Albert and I wanted to go to you know, D one school whatever thought I did well enough and the scouts said or the coaches or the college coaches did I was too slow. I was knock kneed and duck footed and so I didn’t get any D one offers ended up going to southeastern in Durant plan for two years and you know, finished my college career and went to a Rangers trial camp and had a great day and ended up getting drafted out of it. It was crazy. It wasn’t even my invitation. It was my teammates invitation to the tryout camp and he didn’t want to go so I went into place. Nice. So very cool. I happen to have a great day at the right time. Yeah,

Geoffrey Rottmayer
yeah, yeah. Now let’s, let’s go back a bit when you you know you, you graduated at 555 foot five inches, 130 pounds, so you obviously always A smaller guy, which is a given, we all know that you’re a smaller guy in the big league. But you obviously have some athletic abilities. Where did that come from? You know, how did you overcome that notion of being small, and then ended up being a professional prayer

Jeff Frye
practice, man, I I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, I had a cousin. And I mean, we played baseball every single day. Whether it was a wiffle ball or a tennis ball or a rubber ball, and then when I was at home by myself, I would go outside and I would, you know, plug in the radio, pull the extension cord all the way out to the, to the driveway and listen to the baseball game, usually the Giants game and throw the ball against the wall imitating trying to, you know, imitate all the plays that were happening in the game. Here’s a ground ball to short I throw the ball round ball and throw it and I have to go to this little square to get him out and Just I mean, I live that I constantly played baseball. And then then after a while, I started playing a little bit basketball too, but it was, it was one or the other, every single day of my childhood.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Nice. So let’s talk practice. What What does that mean? You know, aside from playing every day and imitating plays what what what would you definition of practice and working hard because, you know, everybody thinks they work hard. And you ask them to tell you what they’re doing. It’s kind of interesting what people consider practice and then hard work. So can you kind of talk about that a little bit?

Jeff Frye
Well, I think today, for kids working hard, it’s going to their lesson for an hour. You know, it I never had a lesson in my life. We didn’t we couldn’t afford lessons. And I didn’t know that there was even anybody around I grew up was born 66 There wasn’t like readily available places to go work out and things like that. It was mean it was literally outside in the street in the driveway, playing baseball, and it was. I mean, it was from sunup to sundown. You know, a lot of people probably don’t believe it, but that’s what we did it we had a passion for it. And so when I say we I’m also talking about my cousin who was four years younger, the only male cousin I had. So now we were together all the time it was we used to play wiffle ball, wiffle ball and nerf baseball in the house, or breaking crap all the time getting in trouble. But it’s just, you know, it was just we didn’t know it. We didn’t have the things the kids have now. We didn’t have the technology. You know, sit in the house and play hours and hours of video games or just look at their phone all the time and think I’m glad we didn’t. We didn’t have those distractions, you know. So it was you know, How are we going to entertain ourselves? Well, we’re gonna go outside we’re gonna play baseball. Right?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. Is it different time and camp vaulted? But you know, just interesting. Let’s jump to your high school days. What was that? Like? You know, the good coaching good years. I mean, what what was the high school days like?

Jeff Frye
Well, my, my freshman year, I went to bisco doubt High School in Oakland, California. And I just went, I came from a Catholic, but I went through fifth through eighth grade called St. John’s. And we didn’t have baseball there. So we play at recess. But I play on the board, we had a basketball team that was really good. And I went to college and I went, I mean, we went to high school, ambition go down and I went off the basketball team and the coach Mike Phelps, who was a legendary coach in California, was also the baseball coach and then he caught me from the basketball team in ninth grade and told me to come back when I grew up, which never forgot, you know. And so I really started practicing basketball. I played baseball my freshman year that I transferred to Hayward high. I did okay, I was I would say I was middle of the road average, because I was still so small. My sophomore year I was five foot 100 pounds. And so I was just I was just adding hit puberty or anything like that, and I did pretty good. And then I moved my junior year to Panama, Oklahoma, and went after basketball and made the team and really excelled and basketball and then played baseball did well played that summer for spiral American Legion. And then my senior year in baseball, I really I mean I hit 560 my senior year in high school, averaged 23 and a half points in basketball and also was a starter in football. So I was in football is basically trying to stay alive. I was not I was not winning many colors. I do that. But you know, I mean, I really, basketball was really my first love because I was a star on the basketball teams. You know, I was probably the best player on the baseball team, but we had a good baseball team. Our basketball team was okay, but I just kind of liked the excitement of it, but I found out pretty quick in college at my height and weight that there wasn’t much. Yeah.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, well, yeah. Talk about that a little bit your your college years at Carl Albert in basketball and how that whole thing developed.

Jeff Frye
Yeah, so I was on the basketball team and I made it all the way to our first scrimmage and went on the road and I got in the game for about 40 seconds. Got one shot of so nervous, you know, threw up a brick and on the way back to the bus right back. It just kind of dawned on me that man, I don’t know. This is gonna work out you know, I was never a quitter, but I was just like, trying to be honest with myself. Is it worth it? Am I gonna waste my time doing this so I could focus on baseball. And it really had never really lifted weights until I got to college. Yeah. And so I really focused on baseball. I had a good I had a good freshman year, Carl Albert, I think I hit like 330 or something. And then my next man, I had a great year I hit like 430 and, you know, hit for some power. And our team made it farther than our college had ever made it before. And you know, then I started deciding because coach, Mark Pollard at Carl Albert called me in his office one day and and he was always funny guy joking around most of the time, and he was actually serious this time. And he goes, I want to talk to you about something. I said, What’s that coach? And he goes, I think you’re a year away. I said, from what and he goes from getting drafted. I said, by the army and he goes no, you idiot by professional baseball and I was like, come on, coach you crazy. Do I’d grown up in the Bay Area? idolizing. You know Willie Mays and all these major leaguers in Oakland A’s, mythic games all the time. It’s like, I never even thought in a million years that I could have an opportunity to do that good. And so I really didn’t think that either when I went to South Eastern southeastern, I said, you know, my, my junior year I hit like 388 and my senior year I hit 452 and set the school record batting average in South Asians at a great program over the years, you know, they’ve had major leaguers national championships and for NAIA school, they were one of the top schools in the country. Yeah, so, but it’s still at that point, I really didn’t realize that I could have a chance as I was kind of thinking about time to get a job and move on. Yeah, but now I go to this trial camp and then everything changed. Wow.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so you’ve always been able to hit where where did that? Where did that come from? How did you come up with your process? Did a code get ahold of you? Or was it all just simply going in the backyard and playing some some ball?

Jeff Frye
You know, I did First of all, I developed I think, great hand eye coordination just playing wiffle ball, non stop, I mean it was well you can throw a football straight You know, I think it’s diving dip in and curving and we got my cousin I got pretty good at it. We could throw that thing and you know, be pretty accurate and I think that’s how I really developed my ability to hit but I never really overcomplicated it. For me it was just seeing the ball and hitting it. I always looked for a fastball and just tried to hit it hard. Not necessarily, you know, any any, like pull the ball and hit it the other way, I just tried to hit it hard. And over the years that I mean that just kept working for me was looking for a fastball. I’m a little guy, they’re going to try and, you know, even if I hit it good, it’s not going to be a home run most times. So these guys are challenging. Well, if he know they’re challenging, you better be able to hit their fastball you’re not gonna last very long. Right?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So So now you’re playing professional baseball. You know, when I go back and look at your minor league numbers, you put up some you put up some good numbers, you know, but what was what was that like? Physically, mentally and emotionally? You know, you’re talking specifically about, you’re a first year pro ball.

Jeff Frye
The first year was horrible. I hated it. I wanted to quit. I was miserable. We were in Butte, Montana. Living in a college dorm at Montana tech. It was viewed was not a very exciting town. To say the least. And you know, I was kind of like the backup second baseman, the guy ahead of me was around draft pick who’s a really good hitter. And so, you know, had a rough stretch. When you play in a short season and you have a big prolonged slump, it’s kind of hard to hit to, to fix your numbers by the end of the year, you know, but I had over 37, my first year, and I think I had less than 200 at bats the whole season still at 286. But a lot of guys in that league were hitting 353 60 you know, so but by the end of the year, I was starting second baseman, we made the playoffs. And by the end of the year, I’d won the job. Go into the next year in spring training, my first spring training, I did really well, but I went to my first full season and gaff donia as the backup second baseman behind the same guy who was ahead of me at Butte, Joey Wardlow and in the first season, it’s kind of like oh, If it’s just fate or what but Joey Wardlow his first game of the season takes a throw down a second base and breaks the tip of the singer. So now I’m thrust into the starting lineup, and I lead the league in batting. You know, just kind of like things just started falling into place and next year and you know, Port Charlotte, I had a good year but for Charlotte that Florida State league is a tough league to hit in. And that you know, I hit like 272 or something like that, and you know, didn’t have like great numbers, you know, power numbers at all because the ballparks are basically all the spring training parts of the big leagues. You know, they’re the 410 two center 353 70 the gap you know, I can hit the ball out and and it humid and the balding carry and so, you know, I think I hit one home run and then the, you know, but then I got to Tulsa. It was, you know, Tulsa was a big turning point for me. So the rollers the I started out once I got once I got to double A I realized now I was playing against better and better players you could really tell false network hits for in a ball will not get in the way you know I could the balls in the gaps are getting run down balls that I was getting through the infield guys were making plays on them. And I’ve scuffling that after like two months, I think I was hitting about 220 or 230. And, and I thought, Man, maybe this is it, you know, you never know you don’t want to admit that maybe you’ve reached with the top down topped out and so it’s kind of funny. We had a game in which tall and my roommate, Rick, Rona, Tulsa boy and I were down in the hotel atrium air is one of those enclosed hotels with a pool in the middle. And he’s playing wiffle ball or Kate ball and we’re using like a broom. broom handle and you know, taped up ball. And it’s like really dark in there. And I’m, I’m imitating, like Ruben Sierra and Juan Gonzalez, these Rangers stars at the time and they all hit with a huge leg kick. You know, which I didn’t hit like that. And and so I was imitating them and in killing the ball and rolling it goes once you hit like that, and again, I said, he goes, What do you have to lose? I was like, Alright, Dude, why not. So the next day we go to, we have a game. And it’s one of the rainy day so we don’t have chance to go on the field VP, so I didn’t have a chance to work at my new hitting solid. I’m just going to start with the next day. So I go in, and I’m standing now I used to have like a little crouch down kind of a wider stance. And now I’m standing upright, kind of like Steve Garvey. And a pitcher starts his wine. If I raise my left leg, my front leg up in the air about a foot and put it back down. I mean without any practice and it was For for my first game, but I hit a home run foul. Now I was like, man, I couldn’t even get close to the home run before. And I started and I stuck with it. They end the Rangers didn’t do anything. They let me do it. And I went from fitting to 30, after probably two months to leading our team in 10 or 11 authentic categories in Dublin and over 300 and made the all star team. Well, I actually didn’t make the all star team. I was a replacement because somebody got hurt. And I didn’t want to go I had a I had a baseball camp set up in Panama, where I was going to make 300 bucks, you know, during the all star break and I was making 1200 bucks a month in double A. So I told my agent I said man, oh my god All Star game. So I got a camp set up. He goes no, you have to go. So I was like, all right. I reluctantly went and went for 501 MVP of the all star game. You know, it’s like man, everything. Just if everything is happening then then I’m like, I want to go play winter ball. I heard about winter ball the chance to advance your career. So I go to Venezuela hit 315 and Venezuela. I’m voted most popular player in Venezuela. I frickin make the all star team and the Rangers put me on the 40 man roster now I’m like, oh, man, this happened and all this stuff is happening. You know, but it’s all all because I just kept hitting. You know, and you know, and I learned that as a young age, man it just and I just never never over overcomplicated it never thought too much about it. I just went out and did it.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know, I’m curious. You know what you’ve learned in terms of the swing and hitting, you know, if you if you if you go on social media, you’re gonna see some crazy stuff. I don’t think I don’t know, man. It’s hard. Just data any of it’s wrong, but there’s stuff out there that seemed contradictory to what we are trying to accomplish. But you know, you know, with that what, what are your thoughts, you know, on the whole, we’re just keeping this simple. And then what we tend to see or where people are experimenting with.

Jeff Frye
It drives me crazy. It drives me crazy. I’ve actually had a few Twitter battles with people over it just because I kind of poke fun at it, you know, when people who never played now say, this is the way to do things, it bothers me. And I, you know, I don’t believe that you have to have played the game to be a great coach, I think but a high percentage of the best coaches played at least some level of baseball. Yeah. And to go out there and I see these videos of these kids with PVC pipes and they’re like, abbreviated swing. swinging up and like, man, I don’t understand how this is gonna help. Yeah, maybe if you’re Aaron judge and you’re six, seven to 70, you can lift the ball the other way. But if you’re five, nine 160 pounds, you’re that’s just fly ball after Fly ball after Fly ball. And I think that I think a lot of it is like we’re trying to do a cookie cutter approach where we’re trying to teach everybody to do it the same way. We’re everybody’s different. You know, you look at the top 20 homerun hitters of all time. Not one of them hits like anybody else, right? So why are we now trying to teach everybody that there’s one way to do it and you have to, you know, you have to lift the ball, you have to have this type of degree of launch angle and exit. exit velocity. I promise you my exit velocity was probably below 80 on most of the balls I hit. It didn’t matter how hard I hit it. I was trying to hit it when nobody was standing. Right. You know, right now. Now it’s like we judge by you know, These kids, they have to have a certain exit velocity by the time they’re in this grade or they’re only going to be able to play in high school or Juco or in AI and I think it’s a joke. I just, I think, you know, Jose, I look at Jose out today. I know he’s wrapped up in all this mess with Bastos right now but I mean this dude was told to leave the first route camp he ever went to. Yeah, because he was too small and not strong enough and look at him now. This perennial NDP candidates, you know, batting title and you think exit velocity and launch angles important Jose LTV right. No way. Right. So, man, I just think it’s I it really does get under my skin to see it really bothers me to see parents who are trying to turn their their young kids into big leaguers. I think because they see the money they can make potentially make and send it to hitting coaches who are failed baseball players. Yeah, yeah.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
I’m there. I’m, I’m there with you, man. I mean, all this stuff that we’re seeing really that it’s a swing, you know, and then there’s hitting. So let’s, let’s talk, you know, for the people that are listening, let’s talk about the hitting side of things and what that really is for swing and then there’s hitting what is hitting?

Jeff Frye
Yeah, you know, I don’t know, some people are blessed with a beautiful swing at Ken Griffey Jr. Raphael palmero. You know, these guys just said beautiful, graceful swing the, to me, the baseball swing was more of a short and quick kind of a violent movement. And it doesn’t matter. Like I said before, everybody has different swing. My approach, when I was hitting was more important than how my swing looked. Okay, I went up to home play, I had a plan. My plan was I would first look and see where everybody was playing me. If the third baseman was back, and was given me a hit in the right situation I’d been in. A lot of times if the third baseman was in and I knew I was going to take a pitch, I would fake about just to try and bring him in a step or two. And I was always constantly watching where they were playing me if they’re playing me to go the other way, I’m gonna try to pull it in the hole. So I was always thinking, but I always looked for a fastball. No matter who I was, Stacy, I was facing away a knuckleball pitcher like Tim Wakefield. I looked for a fastball, because that’s the pitch I wanted to hit. Why should I look for a pitch that he might throw that I don’t want to hit? I usually took I usually took off speed pitches until I had two strikes because I was confident that I could still make contact with two strikes so I would look fastball try and hit it hard on the line or on the ground. And once I got behind in the count, two strikes I would still think fastball bows Rhianna hitter, so I think if you told me you’re Best fastball. I’m going to hit it to right centerfield. And that would allow me to stay back enough. It’s a really an off speed pitch. And I just try to battle and put it in play.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, Jeff, you know, I really like how you mentioned that you took what the defense gave you, you know, when you, when you look around, you know, guide will have a theme, like a generic plan, and this is what I want to do each time I go to play, and not make the adjustment based on what the deep meant or what the picture is giving you. So I love that you brought up that. That I love that you brought that up, you’re reading the deep end and helping you develop your game plan.

Jeff Frye
Yeah, I mean, you know, they mentioned no baseball’s tinkering with a lot of the rules of the game, which I’m not a fan of either, but outline the shift what I mean, how can we say that you can’t play a player in a certain position on the field because guys are incapable of adjusting guides are too stubborn to try to hit the ball the other way, because there’s three guys on the right side of second base. You know, I don’t understand that mentality at all. And, I mean, they shifted on Ted Williams back in the day that he complained about it though. He didn’t hit through the shift or go the other way and you have to be able to adjust. That’s that’s the thing about baseball, there’s way more talented guys to need. That never made it because they couldn’t adjust. They couldn’t take what the other team gave them and especially a guy like me that you know, that’s going to go up there and hit over guy’s head I got to hit where somebody’s not standing. So I had to make sure that you know, especially my bread and butter with the hit and run I cuz I can make contact and I would watch the middle infielders to see who was covering the base and I would be in the middle and soldier I knew where I would play in certain situations. If I see the second baseman shifted over, closer to first I would know that most likely, they think I’m going to go the other way. And that shortstop is going to cover second. Well, all I have to do is hit a 10 hopper to shortstop on a hit and run. He’s going to be standing at second base. You know, and actually I got to the point the hidden run was I was so good at it, that I went to Kevin Kennedy when he was my manager with the Red Sox. And I asked him if he would let me put on my own hit and run, you know, normally the manager will signal the third base coach, they’ll give the hitter the hit run sign and the first the guy on first base or first and second, then you know, the hidden runs on Well, he allowed me to put on my own hit and run because I told him every time I have run on first or personal second, less than two hours on a hitman and he let me do it so I had a sign, you know where I would kind of I think I think I grabbed my cup or the I grabbed my cup, kind of glancing down the first base and the guy first base with such as helmet and I He would know, or I would know that he has to sign and now this next picture is a hidden rug. I probably did it at night when I went to the Red Sox in 96. I bet I did it successfully 30 times. You know, and honestly, goodness, I’m the only player that I’ve ever talked to that was allowed to do that. Yeah, I’m sure some other guys have. But I just knew that I was a ground ball hitter a runner on first or first and second when you’re in ground ball hitter, the double play situation every time so I wanted to get to the infielders moving, because I was trying to hit a ground ball anyway.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
So what count Did you prefer over others or was there?

Jeff Frye
Yeah, oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. 1010202131 every time I wanted to run, because it was a ball. I was gonna let it go. There’s a strike I was gonna put in play.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very cool. You know, you mentioned your your approach a little bit. Let’s talk about your routine. What would your what would you routine look like in the dugout on deck and in the batter’s box?

Jeff Frye
Well, I would you know, on deck, I had a certain routine I did, you know, swing my bat three ways one way always said to have a doughnut or a weight on my bat, and I would you know, the whole time I’m watching the pitcher and watching the infielders. You know, I was really during the game man, I was tunnel vision I wasn’t looking to understand see, you know, there was a pretty girl about the goggles while I was watching the game. That was that was, you know, three hours. I owed it to my team and myself to focus 100% during that time, and I when I got to home plate, I knew what my plan was. I mean, not that I can honestly say not every single time but high percentage by 98% of time I knew what I was trying to do in this situation.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Very cool. You know, you know, Jeff, I want to ask you, you know, if you play this game long enough, you are gonna have your fair share of the slump. What is the process? Or what would your process of dealing with, you know, going through that period of Islam and what advice you have for kids that are are going through them and may mainly trying to deal with it and managing it or what what advice would you have for kids?

Jeff Frye
Yeah, I mean, I had some slumps everybody does you play long enough, you’re gonna have more than anybody, but this year are frustrating. You know, and sometimes you just don’t know what you’re doing wrong. And hopefully you have a hitting coach or somebody to help you, you know, tell you because we didn’t really have video like they do now. And we We had VCR tapes, and then CDs that we could look at. And notice that maybe your hands are dropping, or maybe your shoulders flying out or you’re stepping in the bucket or something, but then you just kind of had to work through it. And for me, it wasn’t, it wasn’t going in the cage and, and for an hour and hitting, it was, you know, to me, it’s it doesn’t it’s not, it’s more clock quality over quantity. So I would go in there and maybe hit some balls off the tee or hit some soft off and my focus was always up the middle. Whenever I could say back and hit the ball up the middle, I would get back on track and try and keep the ball out of the air, you know, which is total opposite of what they do. Now. Now they’re trying to hit the ball here. I knew if I was getting under the ball, that I was either dropping my hand or pulled off the ball. And so I would just focus on hitting a line drive or a hard ground ball up the middle of the other way and that way I would know I was in the right position.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, sorry. I want to pick your mind a little bit on studying and reading the picture. What What do we watch? And what do we study? You know, we tell a lot of the younger kids, and a lot of time they get overwhelmed with the profit because they don’t really know what they’re looking at. So what can they do to kind of start to profit? What are we looking for? As far as reading and studying a pitcher?

Jeff Frye
Yeah, you just have to watch you know, you have to watch how he pitches the other guys. Yeah. You know, which he’s going to, you know, the guy’s going to pitch me different than he’s going to pitch one Gonzales or Rubens here. I knew being the site, my site that they were going to come after me most often with basketballs. Yeah. You know, the one thing they would do to me when I was having a lot of success was they would try to pitch me backwards. They would start off with off speed. And then knowing that I like to hit the ball the other way Didn’t they would try to pound me in with fast balls. And that was a tough adjustment. I mean, I had to battle, but most of the guys would pitch me they did me a favor when they pitched me away. I don’t know why they did so often because that’s what I wanted. But, I mean, there’s other some other nuances that I would look at too I would. I would look at the pitchers gripping the baseball and in his warmup pitches, I would see if he’s got a two seam grip or a forcing grip for a fastball. I would see if he’s spiking his finger for a curveball or if he is Sona split or a changeup and actually one time I was facing, I had the I was lucky enough to face Greg Maddux that he started against as well as with the Red Sox and I was watching him warm up in between innings and I was watching how he gripped you know he had a cutter will cut fastball he didn’t he wasn’t gonna overpower you, he was gonna outsmart you. And so I watch his grip, he grip the ball, put in his glove and then signal cutter or change up and I would watch him So when I was facing him, I saw him get his grip on his cutter, but his ball in his glove and he threw me a cutter I underlined Dr. face. That’s right. You know, and it was just, I would watch with a pitchers getting the signs and he leaned over, he got the ball behind his back. I would watch how he gripped it. And then look when he brought it up to his glove and see if he moved it or not in his glove, and he didn’t, I figured he was stoned to pitch to get the grip before we put it in as well. Just little things like that I was always looking for, and I had to sink my way through my career because I wasn’t the most physically gifted player so I had to outsmart the competition.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know, you always talk to kids about watching and studying the game and it’s funny when people suggest that you’re getting them to think too much and really just paying attention and gathering as much information as possible. So you can get an advantage because To me hitting

Jeff Frye
hard. Yeah, and baseball. I mean, it’s tough for kids because they’re not used to failing. You know, the kids that go on to high school and college. They have success when they’re young. So now that the competition is better, you’re going to fail more. I mean, baseball, you know, they say it all the time baseball is a game of failure. You have to be able to deal with that failure. You know, and and just for a short memory, and, you know, forget about that last at bat or that last error you made and move on. And a lot of kids have trouble with that. And you know, you have to deal with to deal with that just to keep moving on this game.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, when did when did you figure that whole process out? You know, it’s hard and you know, you’re sitting here going, Man, this is hard. I’ve got to have a short term memory, what and I’ve got to deal with my with my failures. So when did that when did that process for view?

Jeff Frye
I’d probably my first year pro ball because I mean, I really didn’t struggle in college. High School. Yeah, you know, I was pretty successful. And by first year going over 37 man that was that was over about a two week period that was rough. That was not that was not any fun and then I guess when I was in double A in Tulsa, the first two months of the season were pretty tough because I just, I couldn’t figure out why I was failing all of a sudden, and if it wasn’t for me, coming up with you know, the crazy idea, Rick Rona, coming up with a crazy idea of a leg kick. I might not have made it past double a, you know, and so it’s kind of like a lucky circumstance or a flute deal that, you know, turned everything around for me and but slumps happen in baseball, and I mean, some happen in all sports. You know, you see guys go through stretches in basketball where they can hit a shot and you just got to keep practicing and keep working and it’s really tough to maintain confidence, which is a key element to me to be successful in sports, if you can’t maintain confidence, even though you’re struggling, man, it’s hard to make it.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah. How did you how do you manage that? You know, they’re they’re always having the belief and the confidence in what you were doing.

Jeff Frye
I think I think you just have to hold on to playing basketball. You just have to believe in yourself. And I think it’s through hard work. Hard work and practice, that you just, you have to you have to believe in yourself, but you’re not going to be successful at anything in life. Really. Right. And so you just got it, you got to stick with it. And and hopefully you find a way to make it, but I would, you know, like I said earlier, there’s just so many options. players that I played with and against my career that were more foreign that were more talented than me that just for whatever reason, they just couldn’t get, you know, the lights were too bright. And they just they didn’t believe in themselves and they ended up not make.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Right. So So you had several years where you are out for the entire year due to injury. What What is that like physically, mentally and emotionally? You know, you’re you’re, you’re playing, you get to the big leagues, which is hard enough. And then you get hurt in your a year. What? What’s going through your man? It was

Jeff Frye
you know, I had Rangers Rookie of the Year, my first year in that offseason playing basketball, I tear my ACL. Yeah, and I’d never really had any serious injuries my whole life. It pulled a muscle here and there, but I mean, that was tough. And it was just like, man, I finally get here. And now I’m gonna miss a whole season. And I mean, I worked and just kept working rehab. You know, I kind of had to start over, I had a good spring train and next spring training. They sent me to the minor leagues to start the season. And so I had to work my way back up, I came up, I hit three 327 that year, then I go to Boston, and do really well in Boston, sign a three year contract and tear my ACL my other ACL spring training. So but, but I, I knew the process is, you know, rehabbing because I’d done it already. And I knew that if I worked hard, I could still come back. And actually, the crazy thing is, after turn, both of my ACL was actually faster than I was. before and I think it’s just the specific training you do for each, you know, all these little muscles and things like that, that you don’t normally think about training can actually got, I did really well after tearing my ACL back in time, but then I kind of had to start over again. The Red Sox had already signed a second basis. I had to work my way back through that too. Those are frustrating years, for sure.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, what’s that like mentally and emotionally? You know, have you had time where, you know, you felt nothing or you had a little setback or you got a little tired with with the rehab and kind of have some self doubt. What was that like?

Jeff Frye
Yeah, I never had that thought. It I didn’t know I was I was disappointed. I mean, you know, in spring training, I’m going into the season and the leadoff hitter and starting second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, and a week in the spring training amount for the year. Yeah, I was mentally that I mean, that was tough mentally. But I just figured, you know, I had no other choice but to work my way back. You kind of you know, you know, it’s just natural to, to think you know, why me Why me but I still got paid to play to rehab. You know, the frustrating the most frustrating part is, you feel like you’re letting the team down and you’re not part of the team. Even though you’re there with the guys. You’re not out in the trenches with them. You know, you’re in the training room, you know, which, when I was playing, I tried to stay out of the train room. It’s like, it’s almost like a sign of weakness that we used to make fun of the guys that were always in the train. So even if I had a little Nick here and there, I would try and stay out of the training room because I didn’t want people that think I was soft. You know, it was like a manly thing. Man. You Little sissy train and get nice after every game you know. So I tried to avoid the train around but it was tough when there was nowhere else I could be except in the train and trying to fix my body.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, but I want to talk a little middle infield you know, you played the outfield as well. But I want to pick your mind on middle infielder what the ability capability and the mindset needed for a middle infielder?

Jeff Frye
Well, you have to have good hands, obviously and you have to have quick feet. agility but you have to think I mean, you have to be able to think because, you know, Matt played some outfield and basically in the outfield you stand up there. Try to stay ready, but it’s kind of boring. You know, it’s not like middle infield. I mean, every pitch is important. I got to know What the sign is, from the catcher to the pitcher. If it’s if it’s a power rating, right handed hitters, he’s gonna pull an off speed pitch or he’s not gonna relay the signs to the shortstop. I gotta let the first baseman though. If it’s an off speed pitch, does, this guy might pull the ball, whatever, and it’s just every pitch of the game is just, you can never take a pitch off. Because that could be the one pitch that you’re not ready, you’re on your heels. And the guy hit the ball through the hole, they could give you their team to win. So you can never stop thinking, keep your head up. I remember one time in Tulsa, actually was Oklahoma City. It was really funny because we are at a bunch of injuries to outfielders. And I was told actually, and Rick Rona, who’s a catcher was going to play the outfield. And he told me he says, Hey, let me know, because I’ll explain in a second. He’s playing right. He says, let me know. pitches. So I don’t know how many pitches are in a game, you know, probably 150 pitches a lot of times and so every pitch I had to get the sign from the catcher relay that message to the shortstop if there was a runner on first related message to the first baseman if it’s an off speed pitch and then behind my back give Rick Rona Zion right field and what the pitch was. And that’s mentally taxing for three hour baseball game, right, you know, so I mean, just can never take a pitch off and Matt took pride in that. It was defense’s, more challenging for me than hitting this felt like I had to always be concentrating wasn’t the, you know, the overly gifted in silver but I turned myself into a good infielder just by working at it.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so So pay attention. You know, what about reading the header, you know, sure you have you know, you get to a third level you have scouting reports, but something may be off for that guy on that day. So what are you looking forward and Compton termed the reading the hitters?

Jeff Frye
Well, I mean, when I was in the big league, and I knew a lot of the WHO THE hitters were, you know, I knew if they were pull hitters, I knew if they get the ball The other way you can and you can also tell by watching the guys take a swing sometimes if where they found the ball off or if they’re late, you know, where you anticipate them hitting the ball and I would always try to cheat over half a step or a step on certain guys. Hmm, I can’t stress enough just the watching and paying attention to every little minute detail to help me be in the right position when they do hit the ball. You know, and it’s tough. When you’re playing against people like in the minor leagues that you may have never played against before, but generally think okay, the three hole hitter is going to be a power hitter for all hitters. Gonna be a power hitter. The first two hitters are going to be guys that you know, can hit the ball the other way. The Catcher is going to be slow, I have more time, you know, just over time you just get that stuff ingrained in your mind. All right, well, this guy’s hidden three hole for a reason. He’s like in hit, he’s probably can pull the ball, he’s got a bunch of home runs, he’s probably pulling the ball. So I might cheat over and expect him to, you know, pull the ball a little bit more than maybe this seven or eight.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
There you go, you know, paying attention. And this, you know, I talked to some other guys that got to the level that you did too. And, you know, you guys always talk about being mentally exhausted after game. The younger guys, the younger kids. Oh yeah. Don’t understand. Now

Jeff Frye
no and actually actually helped coach the Select team this summer a little bit. And we had a game and one of the kids after his after his at bat, I was like, Dude, look at the game situation before he stepped to the plate. He’s like, No, not really. I was like, how can you not look? How do you not know? How are you going to be prepared? You know, if there’s a runner on third base with one out, you need to ground balls, a million RBI. But how do you not know that when you step in the box, you start thinking about that stuff before you step in the box. It’s not just going up there and trying to hit a home run. Right? Yeah. And he and he wasn’t doing well. Yeah, and he was a very talented player. No, but it just got to have the mindset.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, that there needs to be I think there needs to be a coach at the end of every dugout and at the hitter prepared to get on Deck. That, that that that player needs to mentally check in, and they need to be able to relate to his code, what his his approach plan. And you know, just to get his mind in the right spot, and again, hit the hit plan and his approach might change when you get to the plate, but look at starting the thought process and getting ready to hit. You know it? If the thought process doesn’t happen, then it’s not gonna happen.

Jeff Frye
If you’re if it’s just starting by the time you step in the box, you’re it’s too late. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I have a funny story. I was playing with the Red Sox. And it was the last month of the season. And we had Kevin Kenny was our manager. And he invited Maury wills to be our guest coach for the last month of season. Maury wills is a great bass dealer in his career, and so He comes in there and he starts talking to all the guys who are still basis and teaching us things about. You don’t wait to get the first base, trying to read the picture that you should already have him figured out by the time you get on first base, because you’re going to waste two or three pictures, trying to figure out his move, and everything and seeing how long it takes for him. Get rid of the ball. And by that time somebody already hit the ball too late. So you have to have that figured out. And you know, I’ve never really been taught that. And the last month of the season, I stole nine for nine basis last month, just because he was there. So why isn’t that guy there every day? You know, makes you wonder right? What would happen if he had been there the whole season? You know, I sold I think 19 bases that year and I sold nine in one month. So 10 or the other five? I could have I sold 40 that year if he was there full time.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, so let’s talk about that a little bit. Um, being on base What, what do you got there? You know, the goal is obviously to advance 90 feet and score. But what’s the mindset and What are you watching?

Jeff Frye
We get first day, the first thing you do is check where all your outfielders are. Okay. See if and then I mean, I just, it doesn’t take long to glance around the field review everybody’s plan. You know, that way, you know, if, if the centerfielder shaded over to the left and a ball sitting right center, I know I’m at least getting the third. I don’t have to look at my third base coach. You know, the best base runner, you know, one of the best base runners I ever played with was Larry Walker. And he just got into Hall of Fame and he wasn’t a super fast guy. But he was intelligent base runner. And you have to look at all those things. You have to take the extra base you have to be ready. And a lot of that is stuff that you learn For the Baltic. Yeah, you know. So you don’t have to rely on the coaches, the best shoe base runners don’t have to look at their coaches unless it’s the ball behind them in the gap or, you know, if they’re going to try and send you on a on a from second to school on a basis where maybe the right fielders got a great arm and you have to rely on your coaches stop yet. But most of that stuff is you should already know what you’re going to do if a ball hit in this situation, the balls hitting this part of the field, I know I’m going to third base or I know if it’s the right center, the centerfielder has a weak arm. And it I should be able to score on a ball and again, but that’s all just like everything else. It’s just preparation being knowing what you’re going to do before you know the ball is hit to you or for your teammate hit the ball in the gap. You already have it in your mind what you’re gonna do before it happens.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, you know You know, we talked about that all the time, the preparation and the paying attention part. This game is tough and thorough any information that you can get to help you get an advantage. It’s huge. And I don’t understand why guys wouldn’t want to do that other than they just don’t know or don’t know what they’re looking at. But for the most part, I hear people telling me that I’ve given these kids thinking too much when it’s funny.

Jeff Frye
It’s very hard. And I think I think part of the problem with today’s the kids coming up today is, you know, they spend their summers playing for select teams, well, they don’t practice. They play on the weekends, and they play four or five games on the weekend. You know, you know, spend two or three days at practice working on stuff so it’s hard to learn that stuff in the game situation all the time. Where, whereas I, you know, we I would play 50 or 60 games in the summertime, for my, you know, summer league team and we just went And you learn through trial and error on, you know, what to do in certain situations. And I think a lot of that is lost now with kids plan, you know, four or five games on the weekend for a select or travel team and then they don’t practice the rest of the week they go to maybe their pitching coach or they’re hitting coach once or twice a week and you know, for 45 minutes and their parents pay 75 bucks for him to take 100 swings and do the same thing over and over or anybody can hit a brick in batting practice. Yeah, with some batting practice Hall of Famers that never made the big leagues. You know, you throw the ball right down the middle every time they get that group swing and they can hit it but what happens when that ball sinking or cutting their dive and you know, it’s a lot different than that, you know, I think it’s almost like you know, you watch golfers, you know, they talk about these golfers beautiful swings. Well, it doesn’t matter if you are pretty your swing is nice. wasn’t pretty, but I haven’t hit the ball hard and made contact. And, and, you know, I think too much emphasis is put on having this pretty sling and having it at this certain angle and things like that. And I think that’s hurting the game that my

Geoffrey Rottmayer
jab this has been, this has been great. let you know what let’s wrap up with a few more questions when you retired from being a professional athlete and just become a regular civilian What is that like? You know, a lot of guys struggle to walk away from the game and really most of the time the game held you down with you. So how did you deal with that process?

Jeff Frye
to transition? I can tell you that I mean, it’s a it’s no accident that a lot of professional athletes get divorced, when the career is over, because then used to being gone 50% of the time. if not more, and so and I think the hardest part for me was the I’m so competitive that the the, the competition was gone and I had to find other other things in my life outlets in my life to compensate for that being gone just overnight. You know, you one day you’re you’re going to the field every day knowing you’re going to be you know, in a competitive situation and the next day it’s all gone and it’s not coming back so I just for me, I picked up some hobbies I started playing golf more. I still to this day play basketball two or three times a week with a bunch of young guys just to get that that competition I thrive on the competition you know, so I but it’s tough for athletes man to see. There used to be it in the spotlight and now all sudden they’re just normal guy. You know, people aren’t I yelled at you for your autograph. You realize, you realize quickly that you’re just a regular person now. Yeah.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Now you do a you do agent work now, right? That’s right. Yeah. What What’s that? Like? What? Just for the people that are listening who maybe not, you know, you don’t have to elaborate but what, you know maybe the scope of that that what you’re doing?

Jeff Frye
Well, I, you know, I represent amateur and professional athletes in baseball only. And it’s MIT’s cutthroat cutthroat business. That got into right after I retired. And I wanted to stay in the game. I didn’t want to go ride buses in the minor leagues and be a coach and I didn’t want to be away from home and it was something I could do at home. But it’s a nasty business. And it’s like I consider myself a nice guy, and it’s kind of a really tough business for someone who’s not going to go behind people’s backs. be dishonest and steal clients. Unfortunately, a lot of the biggest agencies that are successful they have no problem with that. Right? But you know, I can’t look you in the face and shake your hand and then call your client as I when I get back to my room. Yeah, I can’t do that. And that’s a lot of what happens in my industry sucks. It does. That’s the bad part of it. Just like I’m too nice of a guy to be doing this job. But yeah, you know, but within one, you know, when one of your clients you know, makes it to the big leagues, man, it feels like you made it. Yeah, yeah. And I have one of my clients this year. I think it’s his year, finally after seven years after high school and minor leagues. I mean, he said success and kept getting better and better and mature and I think this is finally year so when he gets called up, man, it’s gonna feel like I’m getting called up, you know?

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Well, Jeff, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I really appreciate I do. We do appreciate your time. But I’d love to ask one last thing. You know what, what would be kind of, you know, one last? You know what? If I were to if you were me interviewing you, what would you have asked that I didn’t have.

Jeff Frye
You haven’t asked me about the cheating stuff. Oh yeah, I think as a man as a black guy for baseball, you know it. I mean, I can honestly say that. I think a lot of the blame goes on Major League Baseball for allowing the technology to be such an integral part of baseball now. You know, the iPads in the dugout and in monitors behind the dugout. I mean, we always use that the video equipment just to go back and look at why we did how we, you know, when we were successful, what we’re doing, we’re failing what We’re doing wrong and I think they just made it too easy for guys and and we bring in a lot of people in the game now that are baseball people. Yeah. And they don’t know the unwritten rules of baseball. So they didn’t play. You know, we knew if I steal your signs, if I’m in second base and I get your signs from the catcher, and I relay it to my hitter, that’s fair game. You have to do a better job of disguising your side okay. But what happened this year with I mean that I guess this year with the or last year with the the Red Sox and the year before the Astros I mean, that goes against everything that we ever learned it, you know, that’s, that’s beyond the rules beyond beyond what’s allowed, you know, and from the time I came up, and I think we just made it easy by allowing all this electronic equipment and cameras everywhere and expected guys who don’t know the unwritten rules of baseball to abide by those rules. And obviously they did and look what’s happened you know, people losing their jobs in baseball for their whole lives. Because they, I guess they couldn’t resist the temptation to have an edge and was always trying we’re always trying to have an edge. I mean, this the same baseball’s forever has been if you’re not cheating, you’re cheating in time, right. But there was a line going across, you know, you know, in my opinion to steroids. Online, he went, he shouldn’t have crossed and now the sign stealing and relaying it. Real Time to hitters is a line that should have been crossed. Yeah.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, I mean, you know, for people who don’t realize, you know, hitting hard and if you know what’s coming.

Yeah, I mean, yeah, exactly.

Jeff Frye
Yeah, I mean, when you see guys, like I saw some of the, you know, the old video guys on oh two didn’t curveballs like they know what’s coming, right? That’s not that doesn’t happen, you know, you know, hit 460 foot home runs on Oh, two curveballs not very often, right. But I mean, I mean, the evidence is there it happened and you could see. I mean, and I’ve actually heard people you know, ask question asked was the dreaded face the guy on steroids or a guy who knows what’s coming? Well, I mean, all the steroids did, you know, enhance athletes didn’t help you hit a baseball, right? Yet supreme confidence and probably more strength to hit the ball harder and harder, but didn’t help you hit it. Like knowing what was coming is completely unfair.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Yeah, yeah, no, that’s, that’s a different game. I think people don’t understand the severity of it.

Jeff Frye
No, I don’t think they do either. And, I mean, we’ll see what’s gonna happen this year. I don’t know, hopefully, there’s new rules implemented to maybe eliminate some of the access to the electronic stuff.

And we’ll see how the numbers change to guys who don’t know. True. Yep.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
But what do you what do you see what I mean? What do you think the future of the game could be? You know, the game is an interesting place. Now the game can evolve. It always does, but it’s kind of an interesting place. What do you what do you see happening?

Jeff Frye
Well, I mean, I think we, there are so many great young players nowadays. I just see the game progressing. Hopefully they can get past this. You know, this cheating scandal. We can start appreciating some of the young superstars. are, you know, all over the Major Leagues? And you know, just get back to the glory of baseball, you know. I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, in my opinion, the greatest game in the world and has some of the best athletes in the world planet and let’s just get back to our national pastime being something that everybody looks up to and enjoys and get away from all the scandalous stuff.

Yeah, I agree.

Geoffrey Rottmayer
Well, Jeff, I don’t want to take up too much more your time, but I do appreciate your time. And

Jeff Frye
you know, again, thank you. Yeah, you’re welcome, Jeff. I appreciate the time to man

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Download now: Ep. 69: A Talk With Former Big Leaguer Jeff Frye | A Baseball Podcast

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Geoff Rottmayer

Geoff Rottmayer is the owner of Athletic Mission Baseball Academy, a training facility in Tulsa Oklahoma. Geoff also host The Baseball Awakening Podcast, which was developed to provide content to the baseball community straight from the source. In addition that that, Geoff, is helping coaches and professional start their own podcast and find their own voice.

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