Caleb Fraser, a 2013 Portland High School graduate and a standout on the Bulldogs baseball team who was known for his bright smile and kind heart, has died at the age of 26.

Fraser’s body was discovered by a hiker just before 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Presumpscot River off a section of the Portland Trails System near Hope Avenue. Portland police Lt. Robert Martin said in an email Thursday that Fraser’s death is being investigated as an apparent drowning. The state medical examiner conducted an autopsy to determine the manner of death and is awaiting toxicology results.

Fraser grew up in Portland, a son of the late Robert Fraser and of Julie Kozlowski. He attended Lyman Moore Middle School and played on various football and ice hockey teams. But his passion was baseball.

Fraser attended Portland High School and was a leader on the Bulldogs varsity baseball team. His stats speak for themselves. According to a 2013 Press Herald story, Fraser made the SMAA All-Rookie team with three wins, 30 strikeouts and six RBIs in his freshman year. As a sophomore, Fraser struck out 40, lifted his average nearly 60 points and drove in nine runs. As a junior, he led the team in RBIs with 10 and averaged a strikeout per inning pitched.

Fraser was named team captain his senior year and led the Bulldogs to the playoffs. He went 4-1 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA. He struck out 27 batters. As designated hitter, he batted .286 with 10 RBIs, the story said.

Fraser was picked for the SMAA Cumberland County all-star team. He was named Portland’s Male Athlete of the Year.

His sister, Brooke Fraser of Portland, said Thursday his life centered on baseball. She said Caleb was very social and loved being with his teammates and friends.

Portland High School starter Caleb Fraser delivers a pitch during a game in May 2011 at Hadlock Field. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

“He knew everyone,” his sister said. “He was so popular. People would always text him, ‘What are we doing? Where are we celebrating?’ Everyone wanted to be around him.”

Fraser graduated in 2013, but then everything changed. He became depressed and withdrawn and turned to alcohol to cope, according to his family.

Three years later, Fraser’s father died of cancer. Fraser idolized his father, who coached his ice hockey, football and baseball teams, including Little League and Babe Ruth. His death hit Fraser especially hard. Soon thereafter, he entered his first alcohol treatment facility.

His mother spoke openly Thursday about her son’s painful struggle with alcoholism, depression and anxiety.

“He told me one day that he couldn’t get out of his own head and forget about the past and move forward,” Kozlowski recalled. “He was really having a hard time. He was watching his friends graduate and get jobs and he couldn’t hold a job.”

His sister emphasized his struggle with anxiety.

“One thing he said would say is, ‘I want to feel normal,'” she recalled. “It was so hard for him to be around alcohol and not pick it up. He would say, ‘I can have one.’ He would battle with himself, ‘Maybe I can have a beer. Maybe I can try this?’ But he would always turn to hard liquor.”

His family described Fraser as a sensitive young man who had a kind heart and gave great hugs.

“He was always very kind and so nice to everyone,” his sister said. “No one knew what he was going through because every time you saw him, he was always smiling and laughing. No one knew he was really struggling inside.”

Fraser did work off and on for Casco Bay Lines in Portland as a freight agent.

“He was always very thankful for the work. He loved the job,” his sister said.

Fraser was drawn to the outdoors. His mother said he loved walking and riding his bike along Portland Trails and often went to the Presumpscot River for peace and solitude.

Fraser had been living in a sober house in Portland for the past three months, but recently started drinking again, according to his family. Kozlowski said she doesn’t know what led to his relapse.

“We were so proud of him,” his mother said, reflecting on his sobriety. “He was constantly battling himself and couldn’t get out of his own head. Caleb didn’t talk openly about his feelings. He kept it in and I think that’s part of the problem. If you‘re feeling bad about yourself, speak up. Call someone. Do something. He didn’t. He kept it to himself and we didn’t know where his mind was at.”

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