agles star outfielder Sal Frelick was not always sure that he would play baseball in college, much less play for Boston College.
He committed to play baseball for the Eagles after his freshman year at Lexington High School in Massachusetts, but he was never satisfied with playing just one sport. Frelick starred in baseball, hockey, and football at Lexington, and he captained all three teams during his senior season.
The call to the gridiron got particularly intense as his time went on in high school. After playing sparingly at quarterback during his years as an underclassman, Frelick came into his own as a senior. He passed for almost 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he added another 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, leading Lexington to a 9-2 record. His stellar play made him the Gatorade Football Player of the Year for Massachusetts.
“My junior and senior year, the football offers were ramping up, and I wasn’t sure if I was gonna play both or play one,” Frelick said, referring to baseball and football. “I was talking to my coaches and my parents, and in the end it came down to what’s best for me, and I chose the baseball path.”
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His choice has already paid off for BC. Last year, Frelick put up one of the best freshman seasons in Eagles history. Batting in the second spot, he hit a .367 average, scored 30 runs, swiped 18 bases, and had an incredible .447 on-base percentage (OBP). His average, stolen base count, and OBP all led the team, and he was named to the All-ACC Second Team and the All-ACC Freshman Team.
He also showed off his ability to make highlight plays in the outfield, particularly with a robbery grab over the fence against Connecticut in March of last year.
Despite the best efforts of his teammate, Frelick did not get the SportsCenter nod for his catch, but his luck changed less than a month later after another stellar catch as he tumbled over the wall.
This time, SportsCenter noticed, and Frelick’s flipping effort came in at the number four spot in the Top 10.
Frelick didn’t even play the outfield in high school—he played second base, and he switched positions when he came to the Heights. He credited the athleticism that has served him so well in different sports as a big factor behind his successful position switch.
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“I was a super athletic player in high school, and I knew that was going to translate to the college level,” Frelick said. “The spot opened up in the outfield last year, and I went out there and kept my athletic ability and just ran with it.”
Apart from shamelessly promoting his teammate, infielder Cody Morisette also put up a stellar freshman season, hitting .320 with 20 doubles and 41 runs batted in. He was named to the All-ACC Second Team and the All-ACC Freshman Team alongside Frelick.
Compared to the rest of their peers on the Freshman Team, Frelick and Morissette stand out. Most players on the list went to both high school and college in the South, the region of the country that produces the highest proportion of professional baseball players by state population, exemplified by the MLB draft picks scattered throughout the list.
Both Frelick and Morisette come from New England, an area that relatively few professional players come from. Neither were drafted out of high school, and head coach Mike Gambino has said that he believes BC was Frelick’s only Division 1 baseball offer. Both players also stayed at their public high schools despite living very close to prep schools.
Frelick’s propensity for highlight plays has come as no surprise to his high school coach, Zach Friedman. When asked what his favorite memory of Frelick is, Friedman struggled to pick one.
“He did stuff every day in practice that was hard to duplicate,” said Friedman. “He really did so many things on a daily basis that were wow moments, SportsCenter type of moments.”
Frelick was so good that it sometimes became hard to coach him, Friedman said.
“I think the hardest thing about coaching him was that sometimes it was just fun to watch,” Friedman joked. “He was that talented on the field.”
Once the norm for top players, three-sport athletes have become rarer in recent years. Travel baseball has stretched into the fall, limiting the ability of baseball players to play other sports, and 7-on-7 spring football leagues have done the same to football stars. Coaches often push for their athletes to specialize, citing concerns of missed practice time and the potential overtraining from too many different athletic motions.
Friedman takes the opposite perspective on Frelick’s multi-sport pursuits, praising his athletes’ participation in other sports as a factor behind their baseball success.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of multi-sport athletes, and I think from a competitive standpoint, playing multiple sports for as long as you can is really a huge benefit,” Friedman said. “The football team had some success when Sal was a junior and senior, and I think with high school athletes, that carries over from season to season.”
Friedman said that his only worry about Frelick’s time on the gridiron and on the rink was the risk of injury.
Those concerns have not been unwarranted, and the wear on Frelick’s body has begun to catch up to him at BC. He injured his knee at the end of his senior season in high school and was unable to participate in fall ball last year. The nagging knee issues returned in the spring, and after missing a handful of games throughout the season, Frelick went under the knife in early May to repair partially torn cartilage in his knee.
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nstead of worrying about the toll that playing three sports has taken on his body, Frelick actually credits it with his success in recovering so successfully.
“It was actually hard but helpful,” Frelick said on the subject of recovering from his latest knee surgery. “Because I came in my freshman year and I missed fall ball because I was hurt, and I wasn’t swinging a bat until the winter. In high school, that’s when I would pick up a bat because I was playing football and hockey.”
Suddenly, he was back on track with a familiar timeline.
With his body now feeling “better than it ever has,” Frelick has wasted no time returning to his pre-injury form. Moving up into the leadoff spot this season, he is hitting .350 with a staggering .490 OBP and has already stolen six bases.
While Frelick says that the team is focused on making regionals, the Eagles are also playing for something bigger this year. Former team captain Pete Frates, BC ’07, died in December. Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, shortly after returning to BC as the director of baseball operations.
Frates was heavily involved in the promotion of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a movement that raised more than $220 million for ALS research. His No. 3 jersey was retired in 2016—making him just the second player in BC baseball history to be honored in such a way.
Both current and former Eagles baseball players attended Frates’ funeral,and Frelick spoke to the media after the Mass.
“Pete is such an inspiration to all of us,” Frelick said. “There’s nothing like a baseball game where Pete would come out and get down to the field.”
The Eagles will also be wearing black PF3 patches on their jerseys this season to honor their former team captain. Apart from the patch, BC baseball honors Frates’ legacy in a number of ways. The Eagles play an ALS awareness Game each season. The Pete Frates Center, a new indoor training facility that will be part of the Harrington Athletics Village, is under construction and is scheduled to be finished in August of 2020.
PF3 has become a recognizable moniker, as the Frates family began a foundation using the acronym to honor the former BC baseball player and raise money to “strike out ALS.”
“The patch is a small way to honor and remember Pete, but the more important thing is to make sure we continue his mission and end this disease,” Gambino said.
Frelick’s focus on issues outside the diamond is not new to Friedman.
“He was a tremendous leader to the school, not just on the athletic fields where he excelled, he did a lot of volunteer work with Best Buddies and the special ed programs in our school,” his former coach said.
“I just think he is a special person, not just an athlete.”