Basehor native signs with Iowa JuCo
Iowa Western Community College baseball coach Marc Rardin came to Basehor last summer to scout the Kansas Royals, specifically Chris Wagner from Lansing.
He got more than he bargained for when he discovered Basehor native A.J. Fronce, a catcher for Bishop Ward.
Rardin invited Fronce back to IWCC's home in Council Bluffs for a pair of winter camps. Fronce first participated in a catching camp and returned for a hitting camp. There were 24 players from across the country participating in each. Fronce committed to IWCC shortly after the hitting camp, a few days before Christmas.
"I never really wanted to go to a big school right off the bat," A.J. said. "I wanted to get used to it. I didn't want to go to a big baseball school, because I would have to sit for two years. I think (Rardin) knows he can get me ready for a D-I school. He can get me ready to start at that level."
Rardin is getting a proven winner. Fronce has been the catcher for the last three 4A state-champions. As the catcher for his summer team, the Kansas Royals, his teams have finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th place finishes at the CABA World Series.
Mark Fronce was pleased with his son's decision, not solely because he is joining an elite baseball program. IWCC is tough on the academic side, as well.
"I was very happy with it," Mark said. "The program they have and the academics. The coaches keep progress reports. You are required to keep a certain GPA."
The national GPA average for college baseball players is 2.8. IWCC's baseball team clocks in at 3.2.
The academics are a priority with the Fronces. A.J. was inducted into the Bishop Ward High School National Honor Society.
Mark is impressed with his son's new coach, Rardin.
"He is very demanding," Mark said. "He teaches hard-nosed baseball. He is very knowledgeable about the game."
A.J. believes his ability to be coached is one of his best assets.
"I think I comprehend the game very well," he said. "I will work hard to get better. I can listen to instructions and apply that to the game."
The catcher believes he needs to work on his arm strength and foot speed. He has a new source of inspiration after observing the IWCC baseball players work at their craft.
"I look at their work ethic, and I see what they work on," A.J. said. "I think I need to get consistent and work every day."
A.J. is as reliable at home as he is behind home plate.
"He is very quiet and honest," Mark said. "He is very responsible. A.J. is very good at school work and his school responsibilities. He is always here to help his mother (Karen)."
Mark's favorite moment from A.J.'s athletic career came last year in Detroit during a baseball tournament. The Royals were winning in a blowout, and A.J.'s coach was going to allow him to pitch the last three innings in mop-up duty.
"He hit a walk-off home run to end the game before he got to pitch," Mark said.
A.J.'s blast enacted the 10-run rule in the fourth inning. He had prevented himself from getting to take the bump.
A.J.'s new coach is delighted to have him.
"A.J. brings the right mentality into our program," Rardin told IWCC.edu. "A blue-collar type of guy who works hard and will do what it takes for himself and the team to be better. He participated in our camps over the holidays and really impressed all of the coaches with his work ethic, talent level, and attitude. I'm excited about the possibilities and opportunities for him here at IWCC."
A.J. has been told that every position is open for competition at IWCC.
"I keep in touch with the coaches. I talk to them every week," A.J. said. "They see what is going on. They said that there are no for sure spots until the baseball season starts. Just because a sophomore is there doesn't mean they will start. It is whoever will work harder.
A.J. sees himself still involved with the game in ten years.
"Hopefully still playing baseball," he said. "If not, an athletic trainer. I want to be close to the game, helping people; maybe in nutrition or something like that."