Lauren Frost, Family Cherishing Final Season At Stanford
Stanford senior outfielder Lauren Frost had never played an official game of softball until her collegiate debut in 2016.
But, she has played on the diamond her entire life.
Baseball held Lauren’s heart captive for years. From the first time she took the field through her senior season of high school, Lauren played baseball in her home town of Eagle River, Alaska.
When her older brother registered for his first year of kid pitch, the team needed one more player. At only six years old, Lauren stepped up.
"I absolutely loved it,” Lauren said. “From that moment on, I wanted to be just like my older brother (Kyle). I followed him in the sport year after year. Eventually, I made it my own.”
She strongly considered the switch to softball at 12 years old, which correlated with a shift to a full-size diamond if she chose baseball.
“I wanted to try one year on the big, 90-foot diamond so I would not have any regrets. One year was all it took, and I knew I was in the right place."
Lauren worked on her craft at the plate and in the field, solidifying her spot as a middle infielder on teams full of males. She credits her father, Gregg Frost, for motivating and supporting her as she developed her skills in a sport that was absent of many athletes that looked like Lauren.
“One of the coolest things my dad ever told me was that any time I wanted to practice, he did not care if it was at 2 a.m., he would go out with me,” Lauren said. “It was quite literally any time of the day. We are blessed with midnight Sun in Alaska. We would practice late at night or multiple times throughout the day. That was always part of the plan."
A credit to her development and performance on the field in club and high school baseball, USA Baseball invited Lauren to try out for the U.S. Women's National Baseball Team as a high school sophomore in 2013.
During this tryout, she learned about Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), an organization that connects high school athletes with collegiate contacts and coaches. Lauren says this introduction was her eye opener to college recruitment.
"Being from Alaska, there had not hardly been many, if any, athletes that had gone on to play Division I athletics,” Lauren said. “I had no one to call upon to understand the recruiting process, so I knew nothing about the recruiting process prior to this. It was a very lucky experience because I do not know if we really would have realized how early on the recruiting process happens.”
Lauren began the recruiting process when she returned to Eagle River, but being more than 2,000 miles from the closest Division I school presented a challenge.
The introduction to NCSA and, specifically, its online portal gave Lauren the opportunity she needed. Online video offered the Frost family the sole convenient medium to get Lauren exposure that could gain the attention of college coaches.
Lauren recognized that the opportunity to play for a Division I program likely required a switch from baseball to softball, which she accepted. During her recruitment, she took unofficial visits to Northwestern, Oregon, Washington and Stanford before deciding to be a Cardinal. One key point sold her on Stanford.
“The coach that recruited me told me that this baseball thing is really cool and that if you want to continue to do that through high school and the first time you play softball is when you get here, we'll make that work.”
Lauren did just that. She played baseball through her senior season of high school, slowly beginning the transition to softball toward the end of her senior season in 2015.
When she arrived in Palo Alto to start her softball career among other teammates who had been playing softball for more than a decade, she focused on the adjustments between the sports that would most impact her – shorter throws, slap defense and rise ball pitching.
After playing second base her freshman year, Lauren moved to the outfield, where she found more comfort.
"It fits my skill set better. I get to cover more ground and make longer throws. It was much more reminiscent of the throws I was making on the baseball diamond."
Her transition to the outfield ahead of her sophomore season corresponded with a significant transition in her family’s spring season lifestyle.
Before Lauren started her sophomore season in February 2017, her father trekked from Eagle River, Alaska, through western Canada, and into the contiguous United States, driving his way to Tempe, Ariz., for Stanford’s season opener.
Gregg’s plan was to live in the family’s popup camper as he traveled from stadium to stadium, watching each Cardinal softball game.
The popup camper, which is the same camper that the family traveled in when Lauren was younger, sits on the back of the family’s truck and offers little space for elbow room. When cranked down, the camper’s diameter stretches three large steps. When popped, the camper fits one bed and a small couch.
Her father traveled just shy of 19,000 miles on the trip from Alaska, around the western U.S. during the season and on the return home in 2017. He loved the trip so much that he convinced Lauren’s mother, Marcia, to join him during Lauren’s junior and senior years.
"College has been an amazing experience, and I have been able to share it with my parents in a way that most kids do not get to,” Lauren said.
The family parks along El Camino Way near Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium, Stanford’s softball stadium, when they are not traveling for away games. Days on campus double as days of rest for the Frost’s.
In Lauren’s junior season, Gregg and Marcia totaled 36,000 miles, and, after all three trips are complete, Gregg estimated that he would travel close to 100,000 miles. The duo averages 800 miles per day on road trips and has driven as many as 1,800 miles without stopping to arrive to a game on time.
Gregg and Marcia revel in the opportunity to follow their daughter in large part because of their son and Lauren’s older brother.
Gregg has owned an electrical surplus business in Chugiak, Alaska, for 10 years, which has given him the flexibility in work-life balance to be involved in Lauren’s career from a young age.
"My dad's favorite part of owning the business is that it allows him the freedom to practice whenever I want to practice, coach whenever he wants to coach, and be there for everything. Now, he gets to travel down here and watch my games because he has such a strong person working for him in my brother."
Kyle operates the business each spring when his father follows the team. Lauren reflected on her brother’s selfless attitude when she played on his baseball teams growing up, calling him a perfect teammate. Many of those same qualities resonate as he takes on the challenge of running his father’s business.
“Kyle is the most capable person to be put in that position. He is always looking at how to benefit others and make their lives better. For him to step up during this time and very selflessly put the struggle on himself to allow me to have this incredible experience and to allow my parents to be able to experience this and watch my team – I do not know how I will do it, but I will never stop looking for ways to repay him"
Because of Kyle, Lauren’s parents can create memories like driving with a frozen tire in -50 degrees. While driving through Canada, Gregg and Marcia briefly stopped to let the dog use the restroom and get a few hours of sleep. When they got back on the road, something was off. Gregg checked the car and discovered that one of the tires had frozen into a square-like shape with a flat bottom. The tire reshaped after warming up, but the two had to deal with a constant thump for a bit of time.
This more-than-frigid temperature seems normal for Lauren’s parents, though. When they travel through Alaska and Canada in early February, the temperatures average between -50 and -35 degrees.
In her final year for the Cardinal, Lauren is soaking up every moment. As much as she enjoys having her parents at games across the country, she also embraces having her parents near campus during the week. Gregg and Marcia’s season-long trip comes to a close at the end of this season, but Lauren knows these memories will last a lifetime.
“I appreciate this time now, but a few years removed, I will probably be blown away by how special this is."