In last week’s edition, the Herald ran part I of its conversation with William Tennent alumnus and former Major League Baseball pitcher Steve Frey. Since 2004, Frey has served as the pitching coach and co-pitching coordinator for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The Angels purchased Frey’s contract in March 1992. In 106 games over two seasons with the Halos, Frey posted 17 saves and a 3.27 ERA. Frey let just two of his first 28 inherited Angel runners score. During a 33-game stretch from mid-May to mid-August of 1993, Frey had a minuscule 0.60 ERA.
“It’s a zone. It’s a confidence zone but a humble zone,” Frey described. “You know what you have to do to prepare and I can always remember how that zone felt. You almost had an expectation that something good was going to happen.”
Frey stayed in California in 1994 to pitch for the San Francisco Giants. His time in the Golden State made him teammates with two extraordinary people: Angel pitcher Jim Abbott who was born without a right hand, and Giant third baseman Matt Williams, who was on pace to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record when the 1994 strike ended the season. Frey still remembers the “off the charts” inspiration of Abbott and the “quiet intensity” Williams brought to the clubhouse.
Returning home to the Delaware Valley, Frey appeared in his 300th career Major League game for Philadelphia in a June 1996 game against Houston. After three seasons in Triple-A, Frey retired.
Frey averaged 48 annual appearances during his 17 professional seasons. He minimized trips to the Disabled List. “First of all, make no mistake about it, it’s God-given ability,” Frey credited. “I’ve always had the rubber arm. I still throw BP almost every day at 56.” Frey “religiously” used prescribed exercises with light dumbbells to help his durability.
After running a baseball academy in Bucks County for several years, the Freys moved to Florida. He was hired by IMG when the academy was just developing its baseball program and has been there ever since.
“The baseball academy consisted of one team and two fields with a double-wide trailer as the offices. On the other site, they had another trailer that was so old, that they had a tree growing through it,” Frey reminisced.
“Now, the campus has become like a small college,” he continued. “We have six full baseball fields. We have a post grad team, a JV team, a freshman team and six varsity teams.” IMG’s full-time dedicated baseball staff comprises 27 people.
IMG’s National team is one of America’s best. MLB.com ranks Frey pitching proteges Levi Kelly (Diamondbacks) and Kendall Williams (Blue Jays) in their organization’s top dozen prospects.
“You have to love baseball with the amount of baseball that you’ll be practicing,” Frey declared. “There are some guys that develop faster but everyone still gets the same instruction as they move along from year to year. I think that is what really impresses the kids. They see me working with Brennan Malone, a first-round pick from two years ago. At the same time, I’m working with little Johnny ninth grader with half of Brennan’s ability, and I’m teaching him the same things.
“What we’re really good at, is getting everybody into colleges. We really do,” Frey emphasized. “I’m so impressed with that side of the program.”
The passionate Frey still loves his job 16 years into his tenure. Part of that reason is he gives and takes instruction.
“I will always keep my old school values because there are certain things in the game that don’t change,” Frey offered. “I teach them but at the same time, I completely have to adapt to the science of baseball. I’m every bit listening and learning from these guys because with social media, you hear everything about the science of the game. The kids will want to talk to you about it.”
IMG, and Frey, are using the Academy’s Online Development Program, Zoom and WebEx meetings to keep their players prepared during the COVID pandemic. “We haven’t missed a beat when it comes to instruction and development. It’s an incredible life. I thank God every day for this job,” Frey concluded.
Steve Hoffman contributed to this article.