Frelick gets new perspective on old tradition

May 25th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BOSTON -- Visits to Fenway Park were a birthday tradition for and his father, Jeff. Sal was born on April 19, and over the years they often took the short trip from Lexington, Mass., into Boston for Opening Day as an early present.

He’s watched too many games in the hallowed home of the Red Sox to count, probably double-digits each season of his childhood. He got to play on the field in high school and at Boston College. But Friday brought something new. Frelick lived the dream of playing a Major League game at his boyhood ballpark.

“It’s obviously going to be a little different,” Frelick said in the runup to the Brewers’ 7-2 win. “Hopefully it will be the same-ish. But there are going to be a lot more people there and the other team is going to have uniforms that say ‘Red Sox’ on it.”

Frelick grew up loving the Red Sox, especially their similarly-statured second baseman, Dustin Pedroia. To become the Brewers’ first-round Draft pick in 2021 out of BC, four years after he wasn’t drafted at all out of Lexington High School, Frelick had to overcome doubts about his 5-foot-8 frame.

He did it by playing like a Boston guy. Frelick’s athleticism was never in doubt; he was Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts as Lexington High’s ultra-mobile quarterback, and also starred in hockey before focusing exclusively on baseball in college. It was always the intangibles that stood out most to scouts.

“Boston is a unique sports town,” Frelick said. “Growing up, there’s an expectation of winning, obviously, but also of a certain style of play. Hustle. Grit. And I think growing up watching it in every sport is something that a lot of young players in Boston want to be. For me, that’s something I pride myself on.”

Hustle and grit has been part of Frelick’s story this season. In Spring Training, he worked on converting to third base, since that was where he might fit on a roster stocked with outfielders. Frelick did so much work with infield instructor Matt Erickson on footwork around the bags and throwing from angles different than the over-the-top delivery he was used to as an outfielder that he developed a sore shoulder that has probably impacted his early-season production at the plate. The Brewers put Frelick on a pitcher’s arm care program to get healthy again, and that’s made a difference, thought he’s “not anywhere close to 100 percent.”

In the end, the third-base plan was derailed by Garrett Mitchell’s fractured finger and later Christian Yelich’s back issue. Frelick has been needed in the outfield, though he has picked up four innings at third base in a pair of games.

“We’ve put a lot on Sal. A ton on this guy,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. “He was going to be potentially our starting third baseman against right-handers … and then he was leading off, something he didn’t do last year when he was up for us.

“He’s special. There’s no reason he should be in the big leagues other than he’s got the ‘it’ factor.”

Even with his mother and sister out of town -- sister Francesca homered in Duke’s victory in the NCAA softball Super Regional in Columbia, Mo., on Friday -- Sal had so many family and friends coming in for the series that he secured one of Fenway’s suites for all three days.

“I’m trying to not make it different from any other game,” Frelick said. “Obviously it’s going to be a little more special, but I don’t want it to negate anything about the type of player I am or put any more pressure on myself.”