Nate Frese: Well, my dad farms quite a bit and has plenty of cattle. Some cows had gotten loose one day, and I got on a four-wheeler and ended up taking a big blow, fracturing my fibula and having a plate with five screws inserted into me. The ankle was the worst part—I dislocated it really bad and destroyed a lot of ligaments. After I got the cast taken off, I slowly began getting my range and motion back. Last week, I passed a physical and got the okay to start camp Tuesday (March 1).
Inside The Ivy: How is the injury now, and are you 100 percent?
Nate Frese: I'm close, though I'm not exactly where I want to be. I won't be completely satisfied until I don't feel anything, but after getting on the field last week, I don't have any limitations. I can pretty much do everything that I was before.
Inside The Ivy: Do you worry about being a little raw in the beginning after missing a full season?
Nate Frese: Yeah, a little. I've been working out pretty hard and came here a couple of weeks early. The biggest thing was getting on the field and taking some groundballs. I'm not too worried about it, because [the Cubs] know the situation and what I went through. They tell me I look like the same Nate Frese.
Inside The Ivy: Who are some of the coaches you've been working with since you arrived in Mesa?
Nate Frese: Steve McFarland (ex-Daytona manager) is one of them, as are Trey Forkerway (Boise manager) and Mike Micucci (Daytona hitting coach). They've got a mini-camp going on now, and after that's over they stick around to throw batting practice and such, which I really appreciate.
Inside The Ivy: What are some of the things you've been working on since you arrived in Mesa?
Nate Frese: Well, getting spikes back on my feet has been a big step. It's a lot different wearing tennis shoes as opposed to cleats, which I've been trying to do on consecutive days because I'm going be out there a few hours instead of just 90 minutes of workouts here and there. I'm also taking groundball practice and working on my footwork.
Inside The Ivy: Going back to the injury, are there ever any relapses?
Nate Frese: I had a lot of them about three months ago when I was working out. I was real tentative as to what I wanted to do, but now I've gotten to the point where I'm past part of it. I don't think about it as much as I used to, either. There are certain times when I'll go to my left or right on a groundball and worry about getting my feet set, but the worst part is over. The first part of therapy was pure hell.
Inside The Ivy: Your 2003 season was an improvement over consecutive struggles at Double-A in 2001 and '02. What was the biggest reason for the improvement?
Nate Frese: Well, I can't really pinpoint anything. In 2003, I must have started off 0-for-30, so I got down on myself and took things a little too hard. After that, I just took a step back and hashed over some things. I was able to turn the page a lot easier and managed to stop carrying things over from game to game. You're only as good as your last at-bat, and I think that's one thing that helped me come around.
Inside The Ivy: Do you feel any more relaxed heading into this year knowing you've battled through seemingly the worst of luck?
Nate Frese: I think so. I know if I can get through this, I'll get through anything, which I think will help me relax. Hurting yourself that bad is really tough because you're on the ankle all the time.
Inside The Ivy: What have you heard about where you'll likely be once Spring Training ends?
Nate Frese: I haven't talked much about it since I signed a new contract back in October. They said at the time, "If you come to camp and prove you're ready to get going, you'll be back where you were." Obviously I have to be honest with them, but I feel like everything is a go so far. Unless the plan has changed, I should be back in Iowa. From there, I'll work out like I don't have a job and bust my butt off.
Inside The Ivy: Best of luck this season, Nate.
Nate Frese: Thank you.
Author's Note: Frese batted .243 for Triple-A Iowa in 2003. He was hitless in his first seven games of the season, starting the year 1-for-29. Frese also told me he became a father in recent months. He is a University of Iowa alumnus and hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.