by Jim Fenton, Enterprise
Link to Enterprise
BROCKTON – Tom Frizzell set a goal when he became the head coach of the Massasoit Community College baseball team in 1991.
Confined to a wheelchair, Frizzell did not want to be viewed as a coach with a disability, but rather as just a coach.
"I always felt that people saw the wheelchair first and they didn't see me,″ he said. "My ambition was to reach the point where it was not coach Frizzell in the wheelchair. It was just coach Frizzell.″
During a career that spanned 28 seasons, Frizzell did just that, compiling a 724-360 record, winning the Division 2 National Championship and earning a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
"I accomplished that,″ said Frizzell of the goal he set nearly three decades ago, "and that is something I am very, very proud of.″
The Hall of Fame career of Frizzell has come to an end, however, as he is retiring as the Warriors coach at the age of 68.
Frizzell has been dealing with some health issues that are forcing him to leave the coaching ranks, though he will continue on as a business professor at Massasoit.
"With situations relative to my health, while not serious, they are enough to make recruiting a little more difficult, the day-to-day administration of my coaching duties a little more difficult,″ said Frizzell. "I think that the program and the kids deserve 100 percent and I've managed to give that to them this year. Going forward, I'm not so sure that I could.
"The health issues are manageable, but I've been advised to reduce some of the activities. I can't give 100 percent to coaching the program, and to me, that's unacceptable.″
Frizzell coached his final game on Sunday night against Quinsigamond at the Region 21 tournament in Haverhill.
After being an assistant coach to Billy Mitchell in 1988, Frizzell took over the program in 1991 and won the national title two years later in Tennessee, one of five trips to the World Series.
Frizzell didn't let being in a wheelchair stop him from becoming one of the nation's top junior college coaches during his long reign in the dugout.
At the age of 27 in 1977, Frizzell was paralyzed from the waist down when a portion of a wall at the Davis School where he was teaching collapsed. Mitchell later urged him to join the coaching staff at Massasoit where Frizzell has been teaching for 40 years.
"One of the things that I've brought to this program outside of baseball,″ said Frizzell, "was that each year, there were 20-24 ballplayers that were a lot more sensitive to someone functioning with a disability that they could take with them and learn from.
"There was a never a time where I needed a boost into the van or to be picked up and carried into a bus that there wasn't a player that was right there to do that without hesitation. That's a little bit of the legacy as well.″
Frizzell said he has savored every moment of his final season, starting with fall practices last September, and has gone down memory lane, recalling all the many players he has guided through the years.
"I've been blessed to have the opportunity to coach the kids that have come through this program,″ he said. "It puts a smile on my face when we're playing at home and there are former players there with their kids just to say, 'Hi, coach.'
"We've been fortunate. We've won a lot more than we've lost. But I take a lot of pride in the kids who went on to get their four-year degrees, that own their own businesses, that have good jobs, that are raising families.
"I like to think a lot of our bus rides, the trips to Florida, gave me the opportunity to get to know my players and point them in the right direction and I'd like to think I succeeded in that a lot more than I failed.″
The connection that he had with hundreds of players for nearly 30 years as the head coach is something that Frizzell will miss.
"I learned a lot over the years because the kids have changed,″ he said. "It's a different player now. But they're still kids. I think more than anything else I'm going to miss the laughs the most, the talking with the kids and the laughs.
"No matter how old I get, they stay the same and they make me laugh. You're going to miss the competition and teaching the game, but it's the laughs and the jokes and the back and forth. I think I'll miss that more than anything.″
Frizzell vividly remembers the first time he was ran the Massasoit baseball team. It occurred during a spring trip to Florida when Mitchell was ejected from a game and turned things over to his assistant.
"He had a big smile on his face and said, 'You're in charge,‴ said Frizzell. "You could have tipped me over with a feather. I didn't know what to do. I was trying to give the signs, I was falling apart.
"I said to him that night, 'Don't you ever do that again.' I always thought I'd be his assistant forever. Then he had some opportunities in administration. He said, 'You should take it over,' and I said, 'No way.' But he convinced me I could do it.″
Frizzell, who had five players move on to professional baseball, did more than just run the Warriors program, he created constant winning for nearly three decades.
When Massasoit opens its 2019 season next March, though, there will be a new coach in charge following in the footsteps of a Hall of Famer.
"It's been such a huge part of my life over the last 30-plus years,″ said Frizzell. "I look back and I'm very, very proud of what the Warrior baseball team has accomplished and I would not do one thing differently.
"I love the game. It's been awful good to me. I guess in everyone's career at some point you have to turn around and walk away. It doesn't mean you love it any less.″