Sharjah baseball prodigy sets heart on big leagues after meeting New York Yankees legend

Dorian Fredrick, 14, already plays in the senior grade of Dubai Little League and hopes to catch the eye of Baseball United

Sharjah-based Dorian Fredrick,14, is a highly-regarded baseball prospect. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Situated just a few blocks away from Sharjah Cricket Stadium, it is not a huge surprise to see people carrying bats and balls up to the second floor of Safari Mall in the city’s industrial area.

Seed Sports does, after all, have three lanes of nets, space for two bowling machines, and tension netting that is essential for games of indoor cricket.

Seeing a father and son pushing a shopping trolley filled with baseball bats, gloves and a bucket of balls through the food court and into the sports centre does, though, feel a little odd.

At least to the uninitiated. “You must be here to meet Professor Dan?” says the member of staff on the front desk, with a knowing grin that says: “Wait till you see this.”

Dan Fredrick, who teaches English at the nearby American University of Sharjah, rigs up a pitching machine, sets it to fast, and runs his 14-year-old son Dorian through some batting drills.

To start with, he faces 100 fast balls. And he does not miss one. “He never misses,” says the same member of staff.

The second ball he faces is hit with such crispness, it bursts through a hole in the tension netting.

Such is his power and finesse, it would be easy to think one of the former Major League Baseball stars who was in the UAE this weekend for the launch of Baseball United has wandered off track and ended up in Safari Mall.

Instead, it is a teenage schoolboy who was born in Sharjah and lived all his life there.

Dorian Fredrick has a lofty ambition: “To play Major League Baseball, 100 per cent, and be a professional player.”

He is too young – by four years – to try out just yet for any of the sides in Baseball United, which will become the UAE’s first pro baseball league when it starts in November.

But he is already on their radar. He was granted a coaching clinic with Nick Swisher, a former World Series-winning batter with the New York Yankees who is a stakeholder in the league, on Sunday.

Swisher was effusive about the young prospect from Sharjah, telling him of his batting swing: “There is nothing that you don’t already know, you should be proud of where you are.”

Fredrick was thrilled with the feedback from a player who hit 245 home runs in his MLB career, and also of the practical tips he gave for the rest of his game.

“He has a great personality and I liked him a lot,” Fredrick said of Swisher.

“He gave me a bunch of tips with grounders, like keeping my eyes behind the glove. It was an incredible day.

“It made me feel really good about the hard work I have put into my swing. I was expecting to hear loads of tips. I was ready to hear it. But then it was clear that, oh wow, I actually did that stuff.”

Having been born in Royal Hospital, Sharjah, Fredrick first started playing a home-made version of T-ball aged two, hitting a foam ball off a plastic water bottle.

He joined the T-ball section of the Dubai Little League, situated near the Burj Khalifa, when he was four, and has been playing a long way up the age grades almost all the time since.

“I think they thought that at first,” he said when asked if older opponents thought he would be an easy beat.

“When I was eight, I was pitching and they saw that I was smaller than them. That’s natural because of the age difference. Then I started throwing harder and harder. They thought they were going to crush the ball, but it evened out.”

He hit his first home run in the men’s competition of the DLL when he was 12.

It didn’t feel as though it had been that much earlier when his dad had first taken him along to T-ball, and feared baseball was not for him when he bunny hopped to first base following his first hit.

“Every American dad goes to play baseball with their kid,” said Dan Fredrick, who originates from Milwaukee but has lived in the UAE for 15 years.

“Some of my colleagues took their kids to T-ball, they played for a couple of years, then they stopped. I got lucky because, for us, it was natural and something that we did together.”

Fredrick Sr did not play any form of formal baseball when he was growing up but became an avid fan when his own mother was working night shifts, saying the sport was “like my babysitter”.

He and his son have honed the youngster’s technique by watching leading players like Bryce Harper, the left-handed Philadelphia Phillies right fielder, and poring over videos of their swings.

“A lot of people comment now that his swing is really smooth,” Dan Fredrick said.

“I find it funny when they say it is natural. They weren’t working with him when he was seven.”

Fredrick plays in the autumn, winter and spring in Dubai, then heads to the US for the summer season, although he is also likely to tour Italy next year with the DLL men’s B-team.

“He has to get games in, but the games need to have competition,” Dan Fredrick said.

“Playing in the men’s league and touring Italy may be better competition for him than playing in the US at his own age.”

Updated: August 08, 2023, 7:19 AM