Field of Dreams
Catching up with Max Fried, first round draft pick of the San Diego Padres …
on the Encino pitcher’s mound where it all began.
- Written byLinda Grasso
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in June, 18-year-old Max Fried shows up at Encino Little League (ELL) to throw the opening pitch for the Major Division championship game. It is just five days after the Harvard Westlake pitcher was picked in the first round of the Major League Baseball 2012 draft, number seven overall by the San Diego Padres, putting his UCLA scholarship on hold indefinitely.
It is also the morning after he has graduated from Harvard Westlake and attended the infamous, all-night-long “Grad Night.” It’s no surprise that the lanky, 6’ 4” teen looks a bit tired.
He perks up, however, once he gets to the impeccably groomed mound where he spent so much of his time as a boy. A momentary pause, and Max throws a toned-down version of his legendary curve ball. The large crowd of Little League players and parents goes wild—applause that could have gone on forever, had he not taken the microphone.
In a low-key, modest tone, looking like the shy guy he is, Max addresses the crowd. “ELL has been my home away from home ever since I can remember. Any chance I get to come back here, I will. There’s nothing better than watching kids who have a love of the game and really want to win. I love seeing this,” he says, before ambling over to sign autographs.
His parents admit that, while the recent events have been thrilling, it’s all been a bit much. “Max is a humble guy and very respectful. He isn’t crazy about all the attention,” his mom, Carrie, confides.
The left-handed pitcher is the middle son of Carrie and Jonathan Fried. All three kids played baseball at ELL, and Jonathan is a former president of the league. “Sure I love baseball. But truth is, I’ve gotten joy out of it because my son gets so much joy out of it,” Jonathan explains. Friends claim Jonathan got nearly as excited when Max’s Junior All-Star team won the Section 2 Title back in ‘08.
The couple takes a practical, feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground approach to all the hoopla. “We have been his parents since he was born, and we will continue to be his parents. We will love and support him every way we can—no matter what happens,” Jonathan says matter-of-factly.
Max played baseball at ELL for 10 years, from T-Ball to Juniors. He went on to star at Montclair Prep, where he dominated opponents for several seasons as a star left- handed pitcher. (He also played football and basketball). For his senior year, he transferred to Harvard Westlake, where he joined their nationally ranked baseball team.
“This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was 5 years old. And now that it is happening, it’s really surreal,” Max shares in a soft voice.
Having signed his Padres contract, Max has moved to Peoria, Arizona, where he’ll train through Labor Day. He’ll return there for spring training in February (with a Minor League team). As he undergoes the rigors of prepping for the Padres, suffice it to say that a lot of Valley baseball players will be watching and waiting—rooting along the way.