May 5, 2016
Jake Fraley was in Fort Myers, Fla., the summer before his sophomore year of high school when former hitting coach Javi Sanchez approached him about attending LSU. However, the outfielder had already begun trying to narrow down which schools he was going to visit, and LSU was not one of them.
“I didn’t want anything to do with LSU,” the Middletown, Del., native explained that his dream was not to don the Purple and Gold but instead Carolina blue.
In fact, LSU was the last school on his list, but after his mother convinced him to take a trip down to Baton Rouge just for the fun of it, he was sold on becoming a Tiger.
Despite making an effortless decision to come to LSU, Fraley’s first fall on campus was anything but easy as he made the transition into the college game.
“Baseball is such a harsh sport,” Fraley said. “It can eat you up if you let it.”
He was not going to let it affect him. Instead, he relied on his steadfast faith, trusting that his hard work and perseverance would allow him to get through his early struggles.
The outfielder was constantly working with Sanchez every day to try to improve. By the time Christmas break arrived, he was not quite there yet, but he had the tools to go home and spend time with his father in the batting cages.
The duo spent hours together, analyzing, looking at videos and working on what Sanchez had been teaching him during the fall, and slowly, it began to click.
“Jake has perseverance and a drive to be great,” Fraley’s roommate of three years, Kramer Robertson, said. “He’s mentally tough and is good at blocking everything out and focusing on what he needs to do to help the team.”
His mentality and focus allowed him to emerge during the middle of his freshman campaign as the Tigers’ leading hitter in Southeastern Conference play, ending the year batting .372 overall with seven doubles, one triple and three home runs.
“I look at it as a blessing because going through that in the fall was the reason I had such a great freshman year and had such a great sophomore year. It’s all in correlation with each other. There’s no coincidence in it,” Fraley stated.
Fraley carried his success into his sophomore season, as he was both a defensive anchor in left field and held a batting average above .300, which provided a spark in the LSU lineup.
In Game 1 of the 2015 NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional against UL-Lafayette, Fraley experienced a remarkable night as he drove in the first run of the game with a RBI double in the bottom of the first. In his next at-bat, he followed with a two-run home run to right field to put the Tigers up 3-0 after three innings, and Chris Sciambra’s walk-off home run sealed the 4-3 victory that will forever be embedded in LSU baseball history.
Fraley beamed, “That game will go down as the best game I’ve ever been a part of. It’s those moments when you’re sitting in your locker after a game and you look back at those falls that you went through. You look back at it with a smile on your face, understanding what the Lord is teaching and showing you that you can go into a game like that with such magnitude and be able to have success.”
Now in his junior year, Fraley continues to be a key cog of the LSU offense and has transitioned into a well-seasoned centerfielder.
Like many who have played before him, he has his routines with how he ties his shoes, puts on his uniform and prepares before he bats that some may call superstitions, but they keep the veteran comfortable. However, nothing keeps him more at ease than his stability in his faith and work ethic, which earned him the cherished jersey No. 8 that is passed down from player to player.
“Every day he shows up to the yard and goes about his business the right way,” said former LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, who wore No. 8 in 2014 and 2015. “Every day off of the field he does the right thing. He’s just a good kid. He exemplifies what a LSU baseball player should be.”
Fraley said, “To be associated with them is an honor and a blessing. I hold it with a lot of respect. It’s amazing to be able to hold that number.”
And as for choosing to become a Tiger, “It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”