News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Former Calhoun baseball coach Fred Frickie, right, won 668 games during a career that lasted from 1967-95 with the help of players like New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, left, who played for the Warhawks during 1990-91.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Former Calhoun baseball coach Fred Frickie, right, won 668 games during a career that lasted from 1967-95 with the help of players like New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, left, who played for the Warhawks during 1990-91.

Frickie appreciates his baseball
We ex-Warhawks always have appreciated our old coach, too

A day after the Alabama Community College Conference inducted former Calhoun coach Fred Frickie and former standout player Jorge Posada into its Hall of Fame, the school honored the pair at a Saturday luncheon.

But before the luncheon, a special gathering took place at the Calhoun gymnasium. The invitation-only get-together included former Calhoun baseball players. I got to attend because I played baseball for the Warhawks after graduating from Decatur High in 1977.

It began at about 10 a.m. and lasted an hour. The informal meeting brought out plenty of memories for all of us.

We joked about how Coach Frickie always wanted to talk shop. Rarely did he want to talk about anything other than baseball.

Posada, a current New York Yankees catcher who played shortstop and third base for the Warhawks in 1990-91, spoke about things he and his teammates did during down time. Posada lived in the on-campus cabanas and often found that fun activities were limited when not focusing on baseball.

“We would come over to the gym here and play some trampoline basketball,” Posada said. “There was a trampoline in the gym most of the time and we would practice slam dunks and other shots after bouncing off the trampoline. That was just one of the fun things we did here.”

After hearing Posada’s story, I had to ask a question to which I thought I already knew the answer. I was right.

I asked Posada what he thought Coach Frickie would do or say if he caught them making 360-degree slams off the trampoline.

“If he came into the gym and saw us, he’d yell something like, ‘What are ya’ll doing?’ ” Posada said with a smile. “He would be mad for about two seconds and then he would start talking about baseball.”

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Frickie many times during and after my playing days.

One occasion that sticks out in my mind took place several weeks before the Decatur Dixie Boys Baseball practice sessions cranked up. Frickie knew I had been coaching Dixie Boys for many years and that I was planning to coach again in a couple of weeks.

While walking around the sporting goods section of a local department store, I clearly heard a distinct voice was yelling at me. Turning around, I walked over to where Coach Frickie was standing. I expected him to offer some kind of greeting, but that never happened.

“I saw someone working on a new drill, Stackhouse,” said Frickie, who was standing in the middle of about a dozen people. “What you do is you get your protective screen and place it about 15 to 20 feet in front of home plate. The secret is to move the screen over at an angle.

“If you do it, your players will automatically be working on hitting the ball the other way. Now, don’t let the batter turn with you — make him stand in there just like he was playing a real game and the pitcher was directly in front of him.”

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday as Frickie had decided to show me as well as tell me. He had the attention of everybody there.

Former Calhoun and Alabama baseball great Larry Keenum was at the gathering and recalled just such a meeting with the former Calhoun coach. Keenum, who now calls Athens home, played at Calhoun in 1973-74.

“After playing here two years I went on to play at Alabama,” Keenum said. “About two years after finishing at Alabama, I came over here and saw Coach Frickie. Like you, I was expecting some kind of greeting, you know, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ or something. Well, that never happened.

“Coach Frickie walked right up to me and said, ‘Keenum, Keith Evans is using the exact same bat here that you used when you played here. Did you know that?’ All I could do was smile and tell him I didn’t know that. The man loves to talk about baseball.”

Former Warhawks player Glenn Gaines (1977-78), who now resides in Lawrence County, was also at Calhoun on Saturday. Upon seeing Gaines, Frickie immediately started telling a baseball story.

“I think we were maybe playing Jeff State,” Frickie said. “Anyway, we got a runner on first base and I knew I had to get him to second. Ricky Putman (of Lexington) came up to bat and he was like batting third or fourth in the lineup. He was a strong hitter.

“I had Gaines sitting on the bench for this game and I called for him to pinch-hit. I wanted him to bunt and he laid down as perfect of a bunt as you would ever want to see. Gaines did his job getting the runner to second. Then we got another base hit and scored because Gaines had already moved him over to second and got him in scoring position.

“Boy, I tell you, Putman was mad. He came over to me real mad and asked why I pinch-hit for him. I told him I pinch-hit for him because he couldn’t bunt. He didn’t like the answer, but I’ll tell you one thing, he learned to bunt after that. I thought it was funny because I couldn’t get him to work on his bunting. But after Gaines laid down that perfect bunt, Putman took it upon himself to learn how to bunt.”

Frickie went on to say that many players learned lessons the hard way, just like the one he had just described.

If you needed further proof about how much Coach Frickie loved baseball, I’ve got it. I invited him to go duck hunting on a cold winter day and he gladly accepted the offer. With several ducks circling our decoys, we both bent down so the ducks couldn’t see us. Once we were hidden, Coach Frickie started talking about left-handed hitters.

Coach Frickie loved the game, but more importantly, he loved to teach the game to others. And, it was obvious he knew what he was talking about. Over a span of 28 years before retiring in 1995, Frickie chalked up 668 victories, including six Alabama state championships.

Clearly, he taught it well.

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Paul Stackhouse Paul Stackhouse

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