Former MLB Player Jeff Frye Experiences Unexpected Social Media Fame After Hitting Video Goes Viral
Watching former major leaguer Jeff Frye exclaim, “She gone!” after taking a ferocious swing with landscaping equipment, it is easy to see why his lighthearted spoofs of the latest baseball hitting trends have gone viral. The eight-year MLB veteran innocently created videos in his backyard as a response to the unconventional methods he saw online. He never expected his videos to take off, especially not 1 million views on TikTok in 48 hours.
“It started out just as a joke,” Frye said via telephone. “I'm friends with some scouts … we just sent each other these funny videos that we see on either Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube of some of the things being taught to kids these days.”
He put up his first video on Twitter with his son’s help. After a friend told him it amassed a few thousand views in a matter of hours, Frye, who was not an avid social media user, was hooked.
“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “The backlash I got from the people who created this video and people who believe in this style of teaching. I was like, ‘Man, I'm kind of inspired to make another video,’ and now I just keep making videos. Unfortunately, I think the downside of this is I've been on my phone a whole lot more than I ever wanted it to be.”
The 53-year-old Frye, who is now a full-time player agent with Frye McCann Sports, was also introduced to a new audience. In addition to the many fans who remembered his playing days, he encountered new age online hitting gurus who oppose the methods that led to Frye's career .290 batting average.
“I had no idea that these kinds of Twitter hitting battles have been going on for years,” he said. “I just jumped into it kind of goofing around, and now it's like this big war between the guys that are teaching the new style hitting. They say it's the way that hitters have to hit now, and there are more of the old-school guys like me, that believe in what we were taught when we came up playing.”
Now that Frye has jumped into the platform with both feet, he not only feels a responsibility to share what worked in the big leagues, but also to alert players and parents about the dogma many instructors are spreading.
“I think they're doing a disservice to kids,” he said. “I think that what's missing. The guys that are in the major leagues are the best of the best. We can't teach everybody to hit like Barry Bonds, Mo Vaughn, [Rafael] Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez, or Juan Gonzalez. All these guys are superhuman athletes that have incredible hand-eye coordination and vision.
“Why are we teaching a 12-year-old kid who is just learning baseball to swing up and hit fly balls, when that might not be what's going to help him be successful? I think it has turned into more of a cookie-cutter type thing, where we're trying to teach everybody to hit the same way when everybody is different. … If I were to learn to hit the way they are teaching kids now, I would have never made it to the big leagues."
Frye has a problem with the online pundits who have tried to discredit his and other former major leaguers’ experiences. Some have resorted to citing his 16 career home runs as a reason to invalidate his reasoning. While he is not utilizing the platform to sell hitting lessons, he feels many are going after the major leaguers to prop up their business interests.
“One of the biggest issues on social media is when you have people who never had any success in this game beyond high school or college, telling major league players who had prolonged careers, we don't know we're talking about,” he said. “I think they have to do that to sell what they're trying to sell.”
While Frye’s unintentional social media explosion has been exciting, he is eagerly waiting for when we can escape our devices and get back on the field. Frye is no stranger to interruptions; he missed two entire seasons due to injury, as well as played through both the 1994 strike and baseball’s stoppage after the 9/11 attacks. He hopes this current pause during the coronavirus pandemic will help athletes realize how fortunate they are to play the game.
“It made me appreciate the fact that I had this game in my life that allowed me to make a good living playing a kids game,” he said. “I had a few injuries during my career which also did the same thing. When you can't play for a whole year, you realize how much you love this game and how much you want to work at it.
“I know fans are missing the game right now. I was playing during September 11, and we had stopped for a week or two. Once we came back it was like, ‘Oh man, this is baseball, this is what America is about; this is going to help us recover from anything.’ I think all sports do that, but I think baseball especially.”
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