It’s the little things about baseball for Gehrig Frei.
The metal cleats clinking against the concrete sidewalks, the ball cracking off the bat, and the rush of emotion after watching the ball go over the fence and hearing the crowd erupt.
It’s all the sights and sounds surrounding baseball that led Frei to fall in love with the sport at a young age.
While still learning the sport in his backyard, Frei liked to pretend he was under the Turner Field lights and would imitate every Braves player’s stance, including the strong and tall stance of Frei’s favorite player, Chipper Jones.
“Eventually, I got to where my swings look good enough from both the right and the left side, just like Chipper,” Frei said. “Around 10, I started switch-hitting in games.”
When Frei started high school at South Forsyth, he was 140 pounds and was not sure if he was strong enough to truly have an impact on the team. After being called up to varsity his freshman year, Frei learned how good he could be at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, where he went 2-for-2 against a future UCLA commit.
“That was a big confidence builder,” Frei said. “I feel like I’ve always been pretty good and strive to be the best, but I’ve definitely worked hard at it too.”
Defense was a focal point of Frei’s game growing up. He earned the starting spot at shortstop at South Forsyth due to his skills with his glove. It was not until Frei knew he could be a great baseball player that he got into the weight room to work on his power.
Now, Frei’s teammates chant “Getting Big with G-Rig” when Frei approaches the plate in response to his leadership and constant presence in the weight room.
“It hypes me up when the dugout starts chanting it,” Frei said. “Playing baseball and working out is all I really do now.”
Headed into his senior year, Frei knew the War Eagles could field a competitive team. After the 2020 season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Frei said the most important thing to him was just having fun with his friends in his last season.
“In the past, I’ve been more locked in,” Frei said, “But during my senior season, I felt like I had a little bit more fun with it. [I] played a little looser, and I think playing looser at the higher levels is something that’s good.”
Playing looser brought Frei’s numbers at the plate to a place they had never been before: a .432 batting average, eight home runs, 32 runs batted in, 37 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
The War Eagles started the season 12-5 and looked to be the early favorites to win a close Region 6-7A.
Five region losses in a row saw South fall out of state playoff contention for a brief moment, but the team won seven of their last eight regular-season games to finish third in the region. They beat second-seeded Dunwoody in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs before falling to Woodstock.
“I think everyone realized we were playing for each other,” Frei said. “It’s a brotherhood and a family. We needed to have fun and everything else would come together. All in all, I’m definitely happy with the way things pan out. Every team’s goal is a state championship, but looking back, to see us come out of the hole from our big losing streak and bounce back was awesome.”
Once it was time for Frei’s recruitment to start, he said he felt very uncomfortable boasting about his numbers and accolades to potential recruiters on social media.
“Recruiting was an interesting process,” Frei said. “I don’t think I really promoted myself as well as I could have. I remember hitting a home run one of the first days of my junior year and my dad said, ‘You have to put this on Twitter so colleges can see this.’ It just felt like I was bragging.”
A friend of Frei’s who was already committed to the University of North Alabama urged the coaches to take additional looks at Frei.
Frei said the team had pursued him before, but were anxious to talk to him about his future plans with baseball.
“They made me feel wanted,” Frei said. “It felt like family. The competition they play at is definitely something I like, along with the offer they gave me. I feel like I definitely deserve it based on the hard work I put in. It’s cool to get recognition.”
As the transition from War Eagle to Lion becomes a closer reality for Frei, he said it is hard to shake all the exciting memories of getting to spend his high school career at South.
“I had my most favorite baseball memories while playing at South,” Frei said. “This has definitely been the best four years to play baseball for me. Being a War Eagle is going out, competing and giving your best every single day.”
Luckily for Frei, the cleats will continue to clink and the bat will continue to crack wherever his lifelong love affair with baseball takes him.