JOHN KOVACH/COLLEGES Frasco has sights set on professional baseball
HIRAM -- That same quest for an opportunity to play collegiate baseball that led Brian Frasco to Hiram College is now powering his desire for a chance to play professionally.
Frasco, an Ursuline High graduate from Liberty, became a success at Hiram when given the opportunity to demonstrate his hitting and pitching talents.
And now he's hoping to capitalize on that same kind of incentive in an upcoming free-agent tryout with the San Diego Padres in Cincinnati on June 27.
Frasco will be on a comeback mission because he recently failed to make the Gateway Grizzlies of St. Louis in the Frontier League, a independent professional minor league circuit considered one step down from Class A.
However, based on his determination and past performances, he has a good shot at regaining his professional status.
Many honors: A senior pitcher-third baseman-designated hitter for Hiram before graduating last month, the versatile Frasco captured a host of honors for the Terriers after transferring to the college from Youngstown State.
Recently, he was selected as the 2001 Donald M. Campbell Award winner as Hiram's top male athlete, after leading the Terriers in eight statistical categories, and helping them to a 20-18 record.
The award is presented in honor of Donald M. Campbell, a former Hiram student-athlete from Warren who died in a fire while trying to save his parents.
"I left YSU because I was looking for a better opportunity at Hiram," said Frasco, claiming he was overlooked as a player trying out with the Penguins.
"I got there [to Hiram] as a sophomore," Frasco said. "Coach [Howard] Jenter gave me a good opportunity to show what I can do. I just practiced all year long. I played in the summer. The more I played, the more I improved."
He said area players helped him to make the transition to Hiram.
"There were guys up there [at Hiram] from Youngstown that I liked playing with, like Joe Lisko, Josh Toot, Ray Lee. They helped me to adjust when I went up there," Frasco said.
Can hit the ball: This past senior season, Frasco led the team in hits (57), batting average (.432), triples (4), RBIs (47), runs (44), slugging average (.689), on-base percentage (.467) and strikeouts pitched (43); and tied for No. 1 in homers (5) and pitching wins (4-4). He also had a 2.47 earned run average.
Frasco climaxed his career as Hiram's all-time home run hitter with 18 blasts, breaking the school record with a two-run shot against Wooster on May 1 to surpass the previous standard of 17 set by Lisko (Columbiana).
Frasco also achieved the rare distinction of being selected to the All-NCAC team as both a designated hitter (first team) and pitcher (second team).
And he was picked to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division III All-Mideast Region team as a honorable mention at designated hitter.
Eyes hitting more: Frasco said the Grizzlies evaluated primarily his pitching, but now he wants to show both his hitting and mound work to the Padres.
"I was there [in the Grizzlies' camp] two weeks. They brought 50 guys in and kept 24. I was dropped the last day," said Frasco, who was the 17th Hiram College student-athlete to sign a professional sports contract. "I pitched five times in 10 days."
He said he believes the Padres heard about him during their visit to the Grizzlies' camp.
"They were down in St. Louis and I think that's where they saw me," said Frasco, who will embark on a new strategy for the Padres' tryout.
"I'm going to sign up for hitting and pitching. I don't want to go for one [or] the other. I really haven't had a shot yet for hitting."
He said he also can play first base, but wasn't needed there at Hiram because the Terriers had a four-year man at that position.
However, he admits, "It's easier to get a shot as a pitcher because of the need for pitching, and usually a DH has to have a position to go along with it."
Meanwhile, Jenter said Frasco has potential. "I've talked to a number of scouts. He definitely has the size. He has to increase pitching velocity," Jenter said.
In local loop: To keep honing his skills, Frasco is playing in the Youngstown Class AA League this summer with the same team he played for last year. The team's name is Roth Brothers, which last year went by Sports World.
Frasco got off to a strong start, going 4-for-4 in the first game with a homer, and 3-for-4 in the second game, as Roth won both games.
Frasco majored in business management and achieved a 3.0 grade-point average. He is helping his father, Michael Frasco, operate the family business, Belleria Pizza. Michael manages 12 franchised restaurants. Brian's mother, Debbie, died recently.
While at Ursuline High, Brian played baseball for four years under coaches Matt Giambattista and then Bob Mingo."
Others from area: Frasco was one of nine area players on Hiram's team.
The others were: seniors Joe DeToro (Poland) and Charles Williams (LaBrae); juniors Kris Haines (Howland) and Mike Drabek (Warren JFK); sophomores Dom Yazbek (Chaney) and Matt Ruby (Jackson-Milton); and freshmen Bill Bowers (Kennedy Christian) and Adam Morgan (Southington).