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Fry hoping for fast track career to MLB

Former Murrayhill, Southridge star savoring pro ball


Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: RILEY PHOTOGRAPHY - Former Southridge baseball star Jace Fry was selected in the third round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox in June. Fry is playing for the White Sox single-A affiliate.

From time to time, in between learning how to be a pro baseball player and pinching himself to ensure he’s not in some conceptualized mirage, Jace Fry’s mind will drift back to Beaverton — the place where his childhood dream was born.

He’ll remember the days of liquidizing hitters on the hill at Southridge, and go even further back to those glorious summers as a Murrayhill Little League superstar, salting some of the best teams in the United States and the world at the LL World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Back then, baseball’s was all Fry wanted to do. The former Skyhawk ace ate, slept and breathed the game, a hardball junkie who plastered posters of his favorite superstars on his bedroom wall, daydreaming of the day he’d one day suit up in a big league uniform, playing the game for a living.

As Fry continued to mature into a power arm worthy of draft consideration, first at Southridge and then at Oregon State, the lefty always leaned on that solid foundation the Beaverton area helped him build. The positive habits and routines Fry picked up along the way that made him a household name on the national stage can be traced back to his hometown.

Those memories will never fade, Fry said, and they were firmly with him this spring when the Chicago White Sox selected the former Skyhawk in the third round of the Major League Baseball Draft.

Sitting in front of a computer watching the draft online with the knowledge the White Sox were very much interested in his ability, Fry said he was psyched to hear his name announced as the 77th pick, not just because of the favorable ramifications, but the system Chicago operates. Fry signed his first contract at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago with his mom and the White Sox brass surrounding him. Two days after signing, Fry was on his way to Great Falls, Mont., home of Chicago’s single-A affiliate.

“They pitch to contact and they like early contact. That’s the kind of pitcher I am,” said Fry. “I’m hoping I can move up through the system pretty quick. I just have to stay consistent with my pitches and realize what kind of pitcher I am and stick to it. At this level, some people put too much stress on themselves and end up doing too much. If I stick to what I’ve been doing, I think I can go up a level or two soon.”

As a minor leaguer living with a host family in Great Falls, Fry has a lot more free time now than he’d initially imagined. The lifelong strain of schoolwork and class ended the day the former Beaver penned his signature to the White Sox contract placed in front of him. Fry’s been able to focus strictly on the game and what it’ll take to shoot him up the Sox minor league system instead staying academically on top of things. And, while the travel of shuttling from city to city around the Pioneer league can be dull, Fry said getting paid do something he truly relishes is pure delight.

“Out here you come out to the park and it’s all baseball for the next 10 hours or so,” said Fry. “Then, you get to get up the next day and do it again. The bus rides can be long, but you adjust quickly, and it becomes something you expect and learn to like. It’s pretty easy living so far.”

But what’s been more surprising is the bond that’s been built amongst the Voyager teammates and their diligence to their craft. Unselfish and dogged in playing the game, Great Falls and Fry have been a perfect fit so far because they approach baseball in the same respect.

“In college, you hear kids kind of lose the edge to play this game and they start playing for themselves at the lower levels,” said Fry. “But here you have a lot of kids who want to play for one another. That’s been pretty cool to see.”

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: RILEY PHOTOGRAPHY - Jace Fry is living with a host family in Great Falls, Montana this summer while playing for the Chicago White Sox single-A affiliate this summer.

Fry’s started his minor league stint strong, with seven solid appearances out of the bullpen for Great Falls. In over nine innings of work Fry’s sported a 2.79 ERA with 10 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .206 off of the lefty, who came out of the bullpen following Tommy John surgery at OSU, but has never fully manned the role of reliever. At the lower levels of minor league ball Fry said Great Falls throws all its pitchers into the rotation because they want to see each other get consistent live game action. The onus on Fry is to shine in a small sample size and demonstrate he has the capability to throw in any situation. In a sense, Fry said, it’s a sink-or-swim situation, and to this point Fry’s been cruising.

“As a bullpen guy you only have a certain amount of innings to get guys out,” noted Fry. “As a starter you can get into a groove, ride it out and keep your team in the game. And, after you find that consistent release point you can ride that for a while. In the ‘pen, you want a clean inning and get the first three guys out.”

When the White Sox picked Fry in the third round, there was little doubt he’d sign right away and join the minor league ranks. In fact, the southpaw said he nearly committed to the Oakland A’s after being selected in the ninth round following his senior year at Southridge.

However, Fry followed through with his commitment to OSU, where he dominated as a junior, taking home Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year honors, a year after only throwing seven innings his sophomore season due to Tommy John surgery. Showing no ill effects from the procedure, Fry came back at full force for the Beavers, striking out 98 batters in 120.1 innings pitched to go along with a tiny 1.80 earned run average. At OSU, Fry said, “everyone’s really tight-knit” from head coach Pat Casey on down to the training staff that helped Fry get back on the bump in a short amount of time.

“There are no secrets there,” said Fry of his OSU experience. “It was cool that I could trust everyone. I knew everyone had my back, so looking back it was just great to see the unity and everyone fighting for one another. We treated each other like brothers.”

Under the guidance of pitching coach Nate Yeskie — a former hurler in the Minnesota Twins organization — Fry said he learned how to pitch off his fastball and maximize the pitch that put him on the map professionally. Yeskie and Fry formed a close-knit bond early on, with Yeskie teaching his young pupil how confront hitters without being too evident.

“He understood what it took to get to the next level,” said Fry of Yeskie. “He said if you ever want to make it, you have to command that first pitch, which was my fastball. Then, you work on your second pitch and the one after that. It was all the stuff you hear when you’re younger: get ahead of hitters in the count, hit your spots. But, it gets magnified when you’re older because hitters get better.”

Fry said he more of a “power arm” back in his Murrayhill heyday, flinging fastballs and flicking curveballs by helpless District Four swingers facing a future pro pitcher. As a 12-year-old southpaw with jaw-dropping ability, Fry quickly took on legendary status. Bring up his name around Alpenrose Stadium, and it’s sure to get a positive reaction amongst the Little League faithful, who fondly recall Fry fanning foes, lookinglike a grown man dropped into a pee wee game.

“Back then I was just throwing gas,” said Fry with a laugh. “Now, it’s about moving the ball around and hitting different corners of the plate. But, having that success back then has always created a lot of confidence in my own head.”

Though Southridge didn’t take home a state title during Fry’s time as a three-year starter, the Skyhawks helped Fry forge the kind of training regimen that helped prepare for starts, how to work in-between outings and how to stay healthy. At Southridge, Fry liked to get out on the field about an hour and a half before the game to start stretching, warming up and long tossing the baseball with a fellow pitcher from 300 feet away. Then, sometimes Fry would throw a 60-pitch bullpen session before the first actual pitch to condition himself for the game. After the game, Fry would run a couple of miles to keep his legs right and follow a shoulder program created to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in his left arm.

“We underestimate how much we can use from our body and how much we can actually do,” said Fry.

Fry now makes his home in Vancouver, Wash., where he’ll train this offseason. But, he said stops in Beaverton Corvallis and Colorado Springs where his mom lives are definitely on the agenda. After all, Fry said you can’t forget your childhood roots.



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