Gritty Tyler Friis plays role in victory
Tyler Friis of the Captains is a throwback player.
The way he looks and plays summons images of gritty guys with baseballappropriate nicknames like Dirt or Spike.
At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Friis (pronounced freeze) doesn’t cut an imposing n figure until he pulls on the uniform and takes his place at the plate, on the basepaths or at any of the three infield positions he’s manned this season.
Then he looks like a serious young man going about his business with purpose.
“There is only one way to play this game, and that is hard,” Friis said on May 17 before the Captains and South Bend (Ind.) Cubs finished a six-game series with a day game at Classic Park.
Captains manager Luke Carlin smiled when the conversation turned to Friis, whose nicknames at various times have been “Dirtbag” and “Grinder.”
“He’s intense, for sure.,” Carlin said. “It’s great to watch him play, all out, every day.”
Friis, a switch hitter, left his mark on Lake County’s 7-0 victory.
He singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, advanced to second base on a single by Austen Wade and rode home with what proved to be the winning run on a three-run home run by Oscar Gonzalez.
The Captains made it 5-0 in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run home run by Ulysses Cantu. They finished the scoring in the bottom of the eighth on a tape-measure solo home run by Will Benson and an RBI grounder by Miguel Eladio.
Laker County starter and eventual winner Francisco Perez (2-3, 4.54 ERA) set the tone by blanking the Cubs over six innings on six hits. Relievers Tommy DeJuneas and Kyle Nelson took it the rest of the way to secure the Captains’ second shutout victory of the season.
Friis’ numbers this season don’t jump off the page. In 28 games, he’s batting .242 with one home run, 14 RBI and a .339 on-base percentage..
But it’s the way Friis plays the game, and his versatility, that caught Carlin’s attention last year when he managed Friis at shortseason Single-A Mahoning Valley
“Some guys who aren’t that imposing physically feel like they have to play with a little more intensity, a little more ferocity,” Carlin said. “Tyler plays with a chip on his shoulder. That intensity makes him a better player.”
Friis, 22, was born and raised in Auburn, Washington, a city of 70,000 between Tacoma and Seattle in the northwest part of the state. He was recruited to faraway Indiana State University, where he played for manager and former ISU AllAmerican infielder Mitch Hannahs.
“I had options coming out of high school, but that coaching staff and program felt like the right fit for me,” Friis said.
Friis thrived playing for the Sycamores in the rugged Missouri Valley Conference.
“I was a little soft coming out of high school. They toughen you up pretty quickly out there,” Friis said.
After three solid seasons at ISU, Friis was selected by the Indians in the 21st round of the 2017 draft. This season, he’s started
11 games apiece at shortstop and second base and six at third base. He said he’s comfortable playing any of those positions and could handle himself at any of the outfield positions, as well.
Friis was asked if, in an extreme situation, he could play al nine positions in a game, including pitcher.
“Oh, yeah, 100 percent,” he said.
Carlin pointed to the toughness shown by Friis after he collided with South Bend baserunner Chris Singleton in the opener of a doubleheader at Classic Park on May 15. Friis, playing second base, broke to cover the bag at first after Singleton put down an attempted sacrifice bunt. The throw by Lake County pitcher Skylar Arias pulled Friis toward the baseline and into the path of the onrushing Singleton.
Both players were shaken by the collision. Friis took the brunt of the hit and was on the ground for a short time, face down, until he rolled over and left the field under his own power.
“The fact he was able to stand up and wasn’t bleeding was a huge relief. He didn’t want to come out for anything,” Carlin said.
Friis did leave the game, however, and was held out of the nightcap. Come the next morning, though, he was back in the line-up.