You’d think Eagle River baseball coach Gregg Frost played in a band or something the way he bounced around college towns all over the West Coast for the last three months.
He was actually following his daughter and the Stanford University softball team.
Lauren Frost is a sophomore right fielder for the Pac-12 team and one of only a handful of Alaskans playing at the NCAA D1 level this year.
Gregg coached Lauren through Little League and high school, and he wasn’t about to miss out on watching his kid compete in one of the country’s premier conferences.
“It just had to happen,” Gregg told me. “I wanted to do this last year and life kind of got in the way. But when Lauren was home in December, we were hitting in the cage one day and I was like, ‘I don’t care what it takes. I’m going.’”
Lauren earned nine starts this season and played in 33 of Stanford’s 51 games. Her .292 on-base percentage was the second highest among platoon players.
It wasn’t the smoothest season, which made it all the better to have her dad along for the ride.
“It’s been incredible, just to know he’s there and that he gets to watch everything,” Lauren told me. “It’s good to see him after a game. Good game, bad game, to get that dad hug afterwards is unreal.”
Lauren’s road to Stanford was unconventional in the sense she didn’t play softball growing up.
She was a baseball player.
As an upperclassman in high school, she was one of most reliable and fundamentally sound second basemen in the Cook Inlet Conference. She was voted first team all-league as a junior in 2014. That same season she was part of an Eagle River Wolves team that won a school-record eight games and earned the program’s only state bid.
As the only girl in the league, Lauren was a reluctant trailblazer. She didn’t want the attention and she didn’t like the limelight.
She just wanted to be a ballplayer, and for the most part, that’s how it was in the CIC.
“As a whole I enjoyed the vibe I got from the guys in the league,” Lauren said. “Having that opportunity got me in the mindset of getting used to playing against the best. It was always a challenge playing baseball with the guys, but it got me in the right mindset.
“So, when I got down here I wasn’t afraid of anybody. I wanted the girls throwing heat. I think playing in the CIC really brought that out in me.”
At Stanford, Lauren has seen sporadic playing time. When given a chance to play consistently, though, she has delivered.
At a tournament last year in Hawaii, the 5-foot-8 slugger hit a home run in three consecutive games, including a pinch-hit grand slam. It was part of a six-game stretch when she had 10 RBIs.
After that she saw only 17 at-bats the final two months of the season.
This year has featured fewer at-bats and more Pac-12 losses, a pattern of inconsistency that would drive any player nuts. Having her dad around has definitely helped keep her even keeled.
“There are games we will talk a lot afterwards and there are some games we don’t have to talk because he saw all of it,” Lauren said. “One of the nicest things is after a rough game I don’t have to make the phone call and relive it. He just knows. He gives me a big hug and we go get something to eat.”
Gregg was entering his fifth season as head coach of the Eagle River baseball team. He had compiled a 26-24 record in four years at the smallest school in the CIC before handing over coaching duties to assistant Chris Barch.
Gregg credits his wife Marcia and son Kyle for handling everything at home and with the family’s electronics business, which made it possible for him to be out of state.
“This is just something else my wife has supported me 100 percent. She supported me through all those years of coaching baseball when I was coaching 5 and 6 teams a year and gone from morning to midnight,” Gregg said. “And my son has been running my business and doing a phenomenal job. It’s been a huge family effort to make this work.”
Baseball has always been the thread that connected this family. Gregg and Lauren love to talk strategy and are true students of the game. They don’t watch games, they study them.
“We’re always on the same page. We know what the other is thinking and we see the same things,” Lauren said. “Now that he’s here we get to really dive into the nitty gritty of the game and get past the surface stuff, and of course it’s brought us closer. It just adds that extra element to the game, which is so much fun.”
Softball, like baseball, is a sport about overcoming failure and Lauren has dealt with her fair share of humility playing a new sport and a new position, moving from infield to outfield.
She manages to stay positive through the changes and keep smiling during the tough times. On the days she doesn’t play, she cheers on her teammates and takes time to high-five a kid after a game or sign an autograph.
“That’s the thing that makes me the proudest,” Gregg said.
It’s just one of the perks that comes with watching his daughter as a college athlete on a daily basis. Gregg is still in awe of how Lauren wound up at Stanford, one of the most prestigious colleges in the world.
“There were opportunities for her to go play baseball at smaller schools after high school, but this is where she belongs,” Gregg said. “Everything that happened over the course of her life all fell into place. We never played baseball looking forward to moving into softball and ending up at Stanford. It’s amazing. It’s just indescribable.”
Off the field, Gregg is just a dad who is in awe of where his kid goes to school.
“I walk three or four miles a day, just wondering around campus,” he said. “There are some incredibly gifted kids at this school. I have met a lot of future Bill Gates. This is a special place.”
On the field, the longtime coach watches his daughter’s every swing, every drill, every moment. As a coach’s kid, Lauren said she thinks a lot like her father and the two of them are usually on the same page.
She welcomes his advice when it comes to fine-tuning her stance or her approach at the plate.
“He knows my swing better than anyone else and I know in the past I’ve been able to call him and say, ‘Hey I felt this’ and he’d say ‘You’re doing this’ Easy fix,” Lauren said. “Having him there really streamlines that process. I love it that he gets to watch how everything goes down.”
Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent for the Alaska School Activities Association.