PRO BASEBALL

RailCats find defense diversity in Fronk

2013-08-06T21:00:00Z 2013-09-16T18:37:12Z RailCats find defense diversity in FronkHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GARY | Reid Fronk last played baseball in spring training with the Mexican League.

He was about to be a part of a trade to a team he wouldn't have been happy to play for, so he elected to cut his summer short and return to school.

He finished classes and his last exam at the University of North Carolina on July 26. By July 31, he was a RailCat and on Tuesday Fronk made his debut in Gary.

"It's exciting, it's kind of like opening day in a way for me," Fronk said before the game. "I'm excited to come to the ballpark and be able to contribute and help these guys win. That's my goal, to have fun and have a good time playing the game that I love to play. Mainly just come in and not screw this up for these guys. It's good to be a part of a winning atmosphere."

During the game, he was the designated hitter and hit sixth in the lineup. He struck out in his first at bat of the night, the bat flying out of his hands and reaching first base.

His natural position is left field or third, but he can play all over the outfield.

Fronk was on the inactive list with the El Paso Diablos because it was his American club while he was in the Mexican Leagues. He said he heard a couple weeks ago that El Paso was shopping him around.

He was on the RailCats list last season, when he hit .291 with El Paso. He also played 33 games in Kansas City -- the RailCats' opponent Tuesday -- hitting .265 with 14 RBIs.

When he arrived to join the RailCats on Aug. 2, he missed his first day of batting practice as it was rained out, and he took 13 at bats with live pitching Saturday and Sunday.

"We'll try to get him in there a couple days in a row and go from there, see how it's going to fit in," manager Greg Tagert said. "I'm going to stop short of saying he's going to be in the lineup every day, we'll let him take care of that."

In corresponding moves, the RailCats released pitcher Osvaldo Rodriguez and placed pitcher Ari Ronick on the inactive list with a strained oblique.

Fronk said he has hit to the gap most of his career, in which he has 107 doubles and 33 home runs reach as high as Double A after being drafted in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I've been a gap-to-gap hitter and a high on-base percentage kind of guy, so that's a good fit here," Fronk said. "I feel like my game fits pretty good here, and I can play all over the field. "

A long-time friend of former RailCats infielder Chris Carrara, Fronk said he was comfortable walking into the clubhouse.

"This is a great group of guys and I fit right in," Fronk said. "That's the kind of atmosphere I like being around."

"He's got some versatility which we always like, and as long as I'm here will always be a part of the ball club: guys who can do different things defensively," Tagert said. "The bat speed, which is the most important thing for a player, seems to be there. The timing is going to be a little off, I think, and maybe that's a little tradeoff with his bat speed. I know he's ready to hit."

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