By Judd Liebman
Pitcher and outfielder Max Fried ’12 will join the senior class and defending Mission League Champion baseball team after his former school, Montclair Prep, shut down its athletics program due to budget cuts.
“It’s definitely heartbreaking to hear the news,” Fried said. “The administrators and teachers were great, and I had been there since seventh grade, so it’s all I knew. It’s time to move on, and I can’t wait to get the school year started.”
Montclair Prep dropped its sports program after 50 years of competition. The budget also forced the school to become a 9-12 school by closing its seventh and eighth grade in addition to the financial aid program.
“As a result of this economy and overwhelming requests for financial aid, we had to restructure,” school director Mark Simpson told the Los Angeles Times.
Due to the closure of the athletics program, CIF governing body will allow all Montclair Prep students to transfer to any school and will not declare any athlete ineligible.
“The Southern Section, which is extremely vigilant in terms of its transfer policies, took extracurricular [activities] into consideration,” Associate Head of School Audrius Barzdukas said.
Fried, a UCLA commit, took advantage of CIF’s decision and decided to transfer within two weeks of Montclair Prep’s announcement.
“I chose Harvard-Westlake because it has the best combination of baseball and academics,” Fried said. “I could not have asked for a better place to be.”
Fried was the only Montclair student to apply for the Upper School, Director of Admissions Elizabeth Gregory said.
Gregory said some families inquired for the Middle School, but the enrollment cap was filled.
The Admissions Office rarely ever accepts local students who are entering their senior year, but these were extenuating circumstances, Gregory said.
“Local people, we rarely get, so in this case it’s very unusual for us to take someone,” she said, “but in this case, just because it’s a tough situation for the kids to be put in, we would really try and help them out.”
Gregory’s concern with accepting a student for his or her senior year stems from her worry that he or she will not be able to handle the rigorous academic environment, hurting the student’s college process.
“We would never take a kid who we felt academically couldn’t handle the program,” she said. “No matter who they were or what their situation was, you have to be able to handle a rigorous program.”
The Admissions Office took Fried’s potential impact on the baseball team into consideration when the decision to admit him was made, but his particular skills were not weighed any differently from those of other applicants who might excel in any one field, Gregory said.
“With anyone, if they’re a talented kid, it’s going to be a big part of their admission,” she said. “If they’re a superstar academic kid or a superstar swimmer, or whatever, we would be more interested in them than if they’re just a regular kid.”
Fried was admitted, Barzdukas said, because he fit Harvard-Westlake’s academic and athletic environment well.
“For every single person, to a large degree, school happiness and success is dependent on fit,” Barzdukas said. “Whatever your extracurricular talents and interest, do you match up with where you’re going?”
In the classroom, Fried was an honor student at Montclair Prep, he said.
On the baseball field, he flirts with 94 miles per hour when he hurls his fastball and batted .380 last season.
Fried plays in the outfield when he’s not on the mound, and his versatility made him a desirable recruit last year, Fried said. Because Fried can play multiple positions, baseball Head Coach Matt LaCour said he does not yet know where Fried will play.
“We will wait until we get Max on the field to see exactly how he fits,” LaCour said. “Like everyone else in our program, he will find his niche through the fall and the winter. These things usually work themselves out rather easily.”
Fried already knows some Wolverine baseball players, and he said he fits in well with the program.
Fried worked out with the Harvard-Westlake team over the summer and met fellow pitcher Lucas Giolito ’12 when they played on an Area Code team together.
“Lucas is probably the top high school pitcher in America,” Fried said. “Just the privilege of playing with him throughout the summer, and now being able to do it next year, I just can’t wait. Our friendly competition and rivalry will make us better.”