By Jim Fenton (The Enterprise)
BROCKTON – The emotional trip down memory lane brought plenty of laughter, some tears of joy and touching words of appreciation.
The long and distinguished career of former Massasoit Community College baseball coach Tom Frizzell was in the spotlight on Thursday afternoon when the school honored him with a touching retirement ceremony at the Asiaf Field House.
After 28 seasons in which he compiled a 724-360 record and won a national championship, Frizzell coached his last game in May. Numerous players from the early 1990s through this past season, family members, Massasoit administrators and state Sen. Michael Brady were on hand to pay tribute to him.
The highlight of the festivities was the announcement that Frizzell's No. 13 was being retired by the school, the first time that has happened at Massasoit.
"I am so proud to have that up there,'' said Frizzell. "That, to me, is real validation of your contribution to the program and to the institution.''
Massasoit vice president William Mitchell presented Frizzell with a framed uniform jersey. It was Mitchell, who was the Warriors head baseball coach in the 1980s, who hired Frizzell as an assistant to get him involved in college coaching.
"Tommy had passion for the game and he had passion for students,'' said Mitchell, who stepped down in 1991 and was replaced by Frizzell. "To me, those are the two things I really looked for. He cared about the kids. He came to practice every day caring about the kids, not just about baseball but about academics as well.
"That's why you see the stands today loaded with past players. That's a testament of who that guy is. He cared not only about wins and losses, but wins and losses in the classroom as well.''
Former players Bobby Flynn (who was also an assistant coach), Adam Fralick of Brockton (who was on the national title team in 1993), and Jonathan O'Donnell (who played on Frizzell's final team) were among the speakers and were joined by athletics director Julie Mulvey and former softball coach and current professor Rolly Blanchette.
"You played a key role in molding me into a good human being,'' said Flynn. "You are a true warrior.''
"He is the person who made the biggest impact in my life,'' said Fralick.
"I am truly honored that I got to play for him,'' said O'Donnell, whose father also was on one of Frizzell's Massasoit teams.
Frizzell, who has been in a wheelchair since a portion of a wall at the Davis School collapsed and left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1977, earned a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame for his achievements.
Frizzell, who remains a business professor at Massasoit, thanked his family members, including wife Chris, and noted how special it was to have so many players return to campus to take part in the ceremony.
"I was very, very touched on a whole bunch of different levels,'' he said afterward. "It was great to have my family here to share this -- I could not have done this without my family -- and all the former players who came to be here and the people I work with.
"You never set out to do anything so that people will end up recognizing you for it. But now that it's over, it was nice to have a little small period of time where everybody got together and talked about how the program impacted them.
"It's nice to have people appreciate the things that you do. Whether you're teaching or coaching, it's all about what can you give to the people who are looking for the ability to get better, to learn.''