116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s all right there in their names.
If you wonder in what sport Bronx Lewis and Maddux Frese excel, just read their first names. Really both their first and last names give you the clue.
The duo are up-the-middle starters for a Cedar Rapids Prairie team that’s ranked seventh as it goes into its Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal Thursday afternoon against No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling at Banks Field in Iowa City.
Lewis is the Hawks’ senior center fielder, Frese a sophomore shortstop. Their baseball lineage is impeccable.
“They have both been around the game,” said Prairie Coach James Nelson. “They are two complete different personalities. Part of that is probably their ages. Maddux, he doesn’t say a lot. But seeing the skills he has, you can see he has been around the game because those aren’t natural skills that you just pick up anywhere.
“Bronx is a senior, a little more vocal. He talks a lot more, which I appreciate. He’ll talk through things, sometimes comes to me with ideas of ‘Hey, maybe we should do this. Maybe we should try that.’ It’s an interesting conversation because he’s almost like an assistant coach with his background and knowledge.”
Lewis’ dad, Darren, played college ball at Kirkwood Community College and Saint Ambrose and for years in the semi-professional Iowa Valley League. His uncle, Jeremy, played briefly in the Chicago Cubs farm system.
Grandpa, John, won over 1,000 games as head coach at Kirkwood. As you can tell by his first name, the Lewises are a big-time New York Yankees family.
Bronx has younger brothers named Jeter and Gehrig. Older sister, Morgan, plays college softball at Eastern Illinois.
“My dad was playing in leagues all over when I was young, so I was going here and there to his games,” Bronx said. “Growing up there at the field, playing catch. My sister, who is older than me, was there, too, so it was me and her doing stuff together, being at games, being bat boys, all that stuff.
“I always think baseball, out of all the sports, has such a close environment. It’s just definitely something that you can feel when you’re there. So being in dugouts for all those games, just being around it, that close to it is really something special … I was pretty privileged to have that growing up.”
Frese’s dad, Nate, is a Norway native, and they know a little bit about baseball in that Benton County town. Nate Frese played at the University of Iowa and then seven seasons of pro ball in the Cubs farm system, getting as high as Triple-A.
Visiting his father on the road as a very little boy helped cement Maddux’s love of the game. Yes, he is named after Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux.
“I started playing when I was, like, 2 or 3. Just being around my dad, I did a lot of stuff,” Maddux said. “Like I’d be throwing baseballs in hotels. My dad’s friends (teammates), they’d always go out in the hallways at hotels and throw with me. That’s how I learned to throw.”
“He’d throw it right down the middle of the hallway,” Nate Frese remembered. “He wouldn’t hit the walls. So I guess that shows some accuracy at a young age. He’s always been around it, and he’s always loved it. I haven’t really had to instill much in him. He’s just always had it.”
Lewis is Prairie’s leading hitter with a .404 batting average, and its leadoff hitter. He also has 28 stolen bases.
Frese hits ninth, though Nelson prefers to think of him as a second leadoff guy. He got promoted to the varsity part way through last season as a freshman and can really pick it defensively at a position his dad played.
Though his batting average is under .200, Nelson said the kid definitely is not overmatched and will certainly hit in coming years. Hopefully this week at state.
“My dad has always told me (playing pro ball) was a lot of work, but it was worth it,” Maddux said. “My goals are pretty similar. I’m looking forward to just doing whatever I can do to get to the highest level possible. Pro ball is really my dream.”
Lewis surprisingly will not play at Kirkwood next year, deciding to go to Kaskaskia junior college in Illinois, where he said he feels he’ll get a better opportunity to get on the field right away.
The 4A field appears wide open this week, with just about each entry having at least one legit starting pitcher. For Prairie, that’s Kentucky signee Jackson Nove, for Dowling, it’s freshman Blake Larson, who already has committed to TCU.
“We definitely came into this season with a lot of confidence,” Lewis said. “We knew that our senior class was pretty stacked. We just thought this was the year … The biggest thing for us was the preseason rankings when we weren’t even in the top 10 in the state. So that definitely pushed us. We’re just excited to play. I think we’ll make a good run at them.”
Comments: (319)-398-8258, firstname.lastname@example.org