By Cameron Blair
William Friedrich works as a dentist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Included on his list of clients are members of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.There is also a high possibility that a close relative will one day be among the Major League baseball players in his clientele.
William’s son, Christian, is the ace of Eastern’s pitching staff and one of the best college prospects in the country, according to magazines such as Baseball America.
Friedrich has been named to multiple All-American teams by Baseball America and Louisville Slugger, among others. The junior left-hander is also a two-time All-OVC selection.
In what is likely to be his last season at Eastern, scouts from nearly every Major League Baseball team have been in the stands for Friedrich’s starts. The Evanston, Ill. native is projected to be a first-round pick in the Major League Amateur Draft in June.
Some scouts have Friedrich projected as high as the top 10 due to his poise on the mound, his fastball which has been clocked at 94 miles per hour and his knee-buckling curveball.
However, Friedrich, who is likely to be the highest draft pick Eastern has ever had in any sport, said the awards and draft projections are not his top priority right now.
“It’s nice to get the recognition, but I really just try to focus on the team,” Friedrich said. “We’re really close as a team and the thing I want most right now is an OVC Championship. Right now we are just a group of friends going for the same goal.”
The Colonels have looked like a team that can compete for the OVC crown, winning their first two conference series, including a two-out-of-three series win at home against defending OVC champs Austin Peay.
Friedrich has certainly done his part early in the season. The 6-3 lefty has won two of his first three decisions and has a microscopic ERA of 2.15. He has also struck out 54 batters in only 37.2 innings of work.
Eastern Head Coach Elvis Dominguez said Friedrich’s success can be attributed to factors other than his devastating curveball.
“What sets him apart from everyone else is his preparation and hard work,” Dominguez said. “He understands the team depends on him and he never thinks about himself. He will be very successful at the next level if he keeps this frame of mind.”
Coming to Eastern to play baseball instead of attempting to start a professional career straight out of high school proved to be a beneficial decision by Friedrich.
“I think you get a lot more experience and time to mature by playing college ball,” Friedrich said. “I also put on the weight I needed to and picked up a third pitch, a slider.”
Friedrich also credited Eastern pitching coach John Corbin with helping him to improve his control during his time as a Colonel.
Deciding to play college baseball also helped Friedrich in another way. His All-American performance at Eastern landed him an invitation to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball Summer League.
“It was the best baseball experience I’ve ever had,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich made the most of the opportunity to play with some of the nation’s best college baseball players. The southpaw had a 4-1 record and struck out 52 batters in only 37 innings pitched.
One of Friedrich’s personal career highlights came during the second game of the three-game league championship series playing for the Falmouth Commodores.
“In the second game of the championship series we were facing elimination and the other team had runners on second and third with no one out,” Friedrich said. “Then I was able to strike out the side and gave a ‘Tiger Woods’ fist pump. It was the most amped up I’ve ever been on the mound.”
The large crowds coming to Cape Cod League games were a highlight for Friedrich because it was a fairly new surrounding to Friedrich since the Colonel baseball team struggles to draw fans to the ballpark.
Friedrich said the low attendance at Eastern games was not a big issue for him.
“I would like for more fans to come see us play, but it doesn’t frustrate me that much,” Friedrich said. “My dad comes to a lot of the home games and some of my friends come out too so it’s not too bad.”
However, the low attendance seems to be a bigger issue for Dominguez.
“It really blows my mind,” Dominguez said. “For one thing, the games are free and there is also a tremendous amount of talent here.”
Dominguez noted that Friedrich would be the seventh player to be selected in the Major League draft in the five years since he became the head coach.
Although his focus is on helping his team win now, Friedrich does have an ultimate goal for his future in mind.
“Obviously, making it to the show is my biggest goal,” Friedrich said. “But I also want to establish myself as a premier pitcher in the major leagues.