Pro pitcher, MC native Caleb Frare inspires local children

Miles City native Caleb Frare, a pitcher in the New York Yankees’ baseball organization, talks to a group of children recently in the basement of the Miles City Public Library. STAR PHOTO/Steve Allison
Caleb Frare of MIles City delivers a pitch. He’s a player in the New York Yankees organization. Submitted photo

Growing up in a small town like Miles City can shape a person and for Caleb Frare this little town did just that.

Frare, 23, was born in Billings but raised in Miles City. He was drafted by the New York Yankees’ professional baseball organization right after graduating from Custer County District High School in 2012. He currently plays for the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees Class A minor-league affiliate in Trenton, New Jersey. 

Several weeks ago, Frare sat down with a small group of kids in the basement of the Miles City Public Library to talk about how he got to where he is now. Miles City resident Jackie Muri arranged the event on short notice.

“I got to know Caleb about five years ago and what I think is cool is that he went to the same schools, rode his bike on the same streets you ride you bike,” Muri told the gathering. “He knows Albertsons and Reynolds grocery stores because he shopped there just like you guys. Caleb’s a local kid.”

According to Muri, when she met Caleb she could tell he was special. 

While Frare may seem like he’s living the dream he’s overcome many bumps along the way to get where he is now. 

Frare grew up like any child. He loved to ride his bike around town, fish, swim  at the Oasis and even snowboard off the dike.  But he was never afraid to leave Miles City and a lot of that had to do with his parents. 

According to his mom Julie, they always encouraged their children to leave Miles City and explore the world. 

“I was never afraid of leaving here. Being out in the world is scary but also fun,” said Frare. “The world’s not that scary. I come back every off season because I call this place my home. I love it here.”

While Frare now plays professional baseball he wasn’t always dedicated to the sport, he told the small crowd. 

“I was like any other kid. I wanted to play everything. I loved sports. My mom and dad both played basketball so basketball ran in our blood,” said Frare, who also played football.

According to Frare, he was a chunky kid growing up, perfect for an offensive lineman in football and a center in basketball.

When he was 12 he broke his elbow and was sent to Rob Brugger for physical therapy at Holy Rosary Healthcare. 

Brugger asked Frare if he wanted to be the center or the lineman, to which Frare replied “no.”

According to Frare, Brugger told him if he wanted to change that he should run a mile everyday. And each day he should try to run it even faster. Frare went on to lose 50 pounds and grow another eight inches. 

Eventually, he ditched basketball and football to focus on baseball. 

“I played T-ball, coach pitch, minors and majors,” said Frare, who wanted to play even more.

At the time there wasn’t a travel team in Miles City. He told his dad that he wanted to play more. So with the help of his uncle, Monty Frare, the Outlaws Baseball Club was created. 

“I had a blast, my friends had a blast, but I didn’t start taking it serious until my sophomore year of high school when I set the goal of getting my college education paid for,” Frare told the crowd. “I wasn’t dedicated. I stayed up until 5 a.m. drinking Mountain Dews and eating Cheetos.”

Once Frare had identified his goal he began to push himself on and off the baseball diamond.

“I knew I had to have good grades. That’s the biggest thing. If you’re going to be successful you have to work hard in school. And I did. I worked my butt off. I would go to practice, come home and do math until 10 o’clock at night,” said Frare.

His studies weren’t the only hurdle he had to leap.

At CCDHS students are allowed to miss 10 days of school but with the new travel team Frare was going to miss much more than that.

One day Frare and his mother went to talk to the principal at the time, Jamie Ogolin, to seek permission for Frare to miss more than 10 days. 

According to Frare, Ogolin sat there a second and then told him, “I’ll do this for you if you promise me that you’re never late to class and you never get a C.”

Frare was also not allowed to have fake sick days where you just want to stay home and play video games.

His freshman year he missed 25 days in the first semester and over 45 in the second semester.

As he grew more serious about baseball and school he realized he had to give some things up.

He gave up playing video games, sleeping in, having a girlfriend and some friendships.

“It’s a matter of prioritizing what you want. Some friends are a hinderance and some friends are a great asset. I’ve had numerous friends who helped further me in baseball and as a person,” said Frare.

The hard work paid off when he was offered a full-ride baseball scholarship to the University of Utah. He planned on studying business. 

Then the June after graduating from high school he received a call notifying him that he had been drafted by the Yankees. 

“I thought I was maybe good enough to be drafted but I didn’t think there was any way,” said Frare. 

Frare was soon sent to Florida to play in the Gulf Coast League.

“The first season was great, I pitched great,” said Frare. “So great they invited me back in the fall for extra work cause they saw me as a top prospect.”

Frare didn’t make it back for the fall though because he was injured. 

He had to undergo Tommy John surgery. 

“It was a very serious injury. Something that ends baseball careers,” Frare explained. “I had to have my elbow reconstructed. For four months I wasn’t allowed to pick up a baseball but I was ready to go in 2014.”

After recovering, Frare couldn’t wait to get back on the field but fate wasn’t on his side.

The first day of spring training, as Frare unloaded his pickup truck, a player’s wife backed up and squished him between his pickup and her car. He spent the entire season rehabbing his back. 

“I’ve been in pro baseball for three years now and only played once,” said Frare. “I thought my career was over. I couldn’t stay healthy. I wanted to quit. My mind and heart had had it. For some weird reason I kept going.”

When he arrived for the 2015 season he was ready to go.

“My pitching coordinator pulled me aside and said, ‘Caleb, you’ve got to show us something special. You’ve been hurt for two years and if there’s nothing special we’ll have to release you.’ My career was so close to being over,” said Frare. “I was walking on a tightrope all spring training.  I finally stayed healthy. For whatever reason the stars aligned and I earned a spot I wasn’t supposed to earn.”

Frare was promoted.

Several more would follow until he got a call to pitch in the AA playoffs.

“Every promotion I’ve gotten I’ve sucked,” said Frare. “I was worried sick.”

It was game two of the playoffs when the call came to the bullpen. Frare’s chance to pitch had arrived.

“I’m nervous, my heart’s beating and I’m sweating bullets. My first pitch was a ball,” said Frare.

Seeing that he was struggling the second baseman came to the mound to offer some advice.

“He comes up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder and says, ‘Rojo, relax, it’s the same game.’ I ended up striking the guy out. We won the game but lost the championship,” said Frare.

As his talk in the library came to an end, Frare left the Miles City boys with some parting advice.  

According to Frare, when they get done playing a game or performing, whether good or bad, to leave it at the field or wherever they are. 

“When you show up the next day don’t remember that game, good or bad,” said Frare. “Show up to the field the same every day.”

Then, while everyone else went back home, Frare headed out to practice his pitching.