Frying the competition
Jace Fry has turned into OSU’s most dominant pitcher after turning down the pros
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Stay in school, or go straight to the pros and make millions? It’s arguably the biggest dilemma young superstar athletes face in sports today.
In fact, Oregon State saw one of these stars choose the latter just a couple of months ago when junior guard Jared Cunningham decided to forgo his senior season for a chance at fame and fortune in the NBA Draft.
Catty-corner to Gill Coliseum — what has been Cunningham’s home for the past three seasons — there’s another Oregon State star who was faced with a similar decision less than a year ago.
Freshman starting pitcher Jace Fry has dazzled in the beloved orange-and-black all spring, but most people don’t know that the left-hander was dangerously close to choosing a different set of colors which hold the opposite connotation for Beaver Nation — green and yellow.
Not the green and yellow of Oregon, but of the Oakland Athletics. The A’s drafted Fry in the ninth round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
It’s not uncommon at all to see a baseball player forgo college altogether and jump straight to the minors — especially one as heralded as Fry. So most figured he would ditch his plans to attend OSU and sign with the A’s.
That’s not how things played out.
“From the information my advisor and I had, I thought I was more valuable than the money they were offering,” Fry said. “The money just wasn’t right, so I chose to go to the school I always liked growing up instead.”
The decision to pass up the guaranteed signing bonus and salary that comes with being drafted into the Major League system was undoubtedly one of the toughest Fry has had to make. But fortunately for No. 23 Oregon State, the 18-year-old chose school, as Fry has quickly turned into arguably the Beavers’ best pitcher.
Going into this weekend’s series with Washington State, Fry leads OSU with an ERA of 2.19, three complete games — including a shutout against No. 11 UCLA — and has held opponents to a .197 average. All three of those stats are a staff-best.
Fry is also tied for second on the team with five wins, and won Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week earlier this spring after posting an ERA of 0.89 in the month of April.
“He’s been tremendous for us all year, no doubt about it,” said head coach Pat Casey. “He’s adapted to the college game even more quickly than I thought he would. He goes out and competes every single start and does what he needs to do to win ball games.”
Fry’s performance this year has been even more impressive when considering he missed the majority of offseason workouts all the way up through the first three weeks of the season after coming back from back surgery.
“I was surprised with how well I pitched early, because I had only thrown a couple of bullpens before my first start,” Fry said. “I was nervous, but it was a good kind of nervous and I was really encouraged after the first couple starts because I pitched pretty well, and I knew it wasn’t up to my normal level.”
In addition to his instant success, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Southridge High School product has already earned a reputation for possessing the bulldog mentality that all great pitchers seem to have.
“He just has a really good feel for pitching that’s beyond his years,” said senior catcher Ryan Gorton. “He really understands the game and how to get hitters out… the other thing with Jace is his attitude. He has that bulldog mentality and he trusts his stuff. He kind of says, ‘Here it is. Try and hit it."
That fearless approach to pitching is one of the main reasons Major League scouts fell in love with Fry, but is a trait that Fry claims is simply a part of him as a person.
“People tell me I have a bulldog mentality, but to me it’s just natural,” Fry said. “When I go out there, I just play my game and play for the team. It’s just me kind of doing my thing out there.”
In a little more than two years time, Fry will be faced with the same decision as before when he’s again eligible for the MLB Draft after completing three years of college ball.
If his success continues at its current clip, he could be drafted much higher than he was initially.
But for now, it seems as though he made the right decision, choosing college over money. Not only from Oregon State’s perspective, but from Fry’s as well.
“I think I made the right decision,” Fry said without hesitation. “Just being a unit with this team is huge. Getting that family feeling and enjoying the college environment has definitely been worth it so far.”
Andrew Kilstrom, sports writer