For a 9-year-old, the stage doesn't get much bigger than the one on which Egg Harbor Township slugger Cole Frye found himself the morning of Aug. 18.
It was the 2013 Phillies Home Run Derby at Citizens Bank Park, and Cole was the seventh player up to bat of nine. In his age group, a hit more than 100 feet - a home run - was worth five points, and a hit between 75 and 100 was worth two. A foul ball was nothing.
Cole had 10 swings to best the leader, who sat at 34 points. While the circumstances might have shaken another athlete, Frye was unfazed.
"I wasn't nervous," he said. "I was used to it, so I didn't have a hard time doing it."
Cole clubbed eight homers, hit one ball fair and one foul to earn 42 points and take the Boys 7/8 division crown. Cole was 8 during the first round of competition in the spring.
Doug Frye, Cole's father, started pitching to his son as soon as he could hold a bat and has coached him through each level. By the time he was 3, Cole was already seeing some heat - and making contact, too.
Cole started playing organized ball at 5, and two years ago moved up to the Egg Harbor Township Eagles 8U travel team, and didn't skip a beat.
Paul Sparano, who coached Cole on the Eagles the past two seasons, said he is the definition of a five-tool guy, at least as much as a kid his age can be. Longballs are plentiful, but even when the ball falls shy of the fence - or when the field doesn't have one - Cole often beats the throw home anyway. He is a wall at first base, and when he toes the rubber in the sixth, it's game over.
"He's like a freak of nature, with his athletic ability, a kid his age," Sparano said. "Not just his hitting - the strength of his arm, his speed, everything about him. He's just ... he's just got an ability and a gift."
He first entered the Home Run Derby two years ago, but didn't advance past the local qualifier in Egg Harbor Township. Last year, he made it to the regional competition in Millville, but was eliminated. As it turned out, the third time was the charm.
Cole traveled to Citizens Bank Park with an entourage of 14 that included his father, his mother, Jennifer, and his sister, Cameron, other family members and friends.
It was his mom's hope, she said, that Cole would simply allow himself to have fun and not feel the pressure of the moment. When she saw how coolly he walked to the plate, she knew he had heeded her advice - and it didn't bode well for his competition.
"He just walked out there, was like, game on," she said. "Game on. And I was so happy, because all I told him was to go have fun."
Cole was presented with an award before the Phillies' afternoon game, and he and his family stuck around to watch them take a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In addition to his baseball prowess, Cole is a skilled hockey player, both ice and street. Baseball is his first love, though, and he expects to continue entering the Home Run Derby, which has 9-10 and 11-12 divisions as well.
Cole has a lot of years of baseball ahead of him, and there's a lot that can happen, but if he matures as Sparano expects him to, the coach could see him putting together a career to match that of former St. Augustine Prep standout and University of North Carolina scholarship hurler Chris Oakley. Or maybe, Sparano said, he could even be more.
"He could definitely be a Mike Trout," Sparano said. "The chance to make it to Triple A is one in 2,000, that's Triple A. I think this kid is probably the one in 100 (Triple A players) that's going to make it even further."
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