Local coach spent summer dealing heat in pro league

sports@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 15, 2013 

Some teachers run summer-school classes during their break. Others just take the season off.

Willie Frederick, a substitute teacher for Los Banos High and Pacheco High, spent the summer on a pitcher's mound playing independent baseball for the expansion Raton Osos in the Pecos League.

"It's a real small town, about 6,000 people, somewhere in there. It's a real great community — everybody was involved in what we were doing," Frederick said. "I went to Tennessee-Martin, and that was a small town also, but it's a little different culture wise. They treated us like stars."

In 15 appearances for the Osos (14 starts), the 24-year-old compiled a 2-9 record with a 4.60 earned-run average. He tallied 52 strikeout against 32 walks, had two complete games, and led the team with 78.1 innings pitched, earning a trip to the league's all-star game July 6 for the Northern Division, despite the Osos' 12-53 record.

"For me, it was my first year there. Also it was an expansion team. Next year, they have a lot of plans to be better," Frederick said. "They predicted us to win 10 games, I think it was. They had a coach, but he got fired and took an assistant and a bunch of players with him, so they had to fill in with a bunch of other guys. So it was a few of us that were signed, and a bunch of new guys."

In most leagues, a 4.6 ERA is average. But in the ballparks of the Pecos League, with small stadiums scattered through the highlands of New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, the ball tends to fly pretty far. The Osos' home park, Gabrielle Field, sits at 6,670 feet elevation, and the Fort Marcy Ballpark in Santa Fe is not only at 7,000 feet, it also has a short outfield — Frederick estimated it at 260 feet.

"They told us if you have under a 7 ERA, that's a decent year," Frederick said. "If you get under 5, you're an elite pitcher in the league.

"The ball flew there. You learn that if you execute a pitch and keep it down, you'll have success, but if you leave one mistake up, it can change the entire game."

Frederick graduated from Los Banos High in 2007 and spent two years at Modesto JC. From there he earned a scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Martin, an NCAA Division I school. He graduated in 2012, but wasn't drafted by any Major League Baseball team.

As an assistant coach at Pacheco High, Frederick returns with a summer full of experience he can pass on to the players. The biggest lesson he took from the summer was to shut out the distractions.

"A lot of times, especially in high school, you've got school going on, you've got girlfriends. You have to shut out everything and control what you can control," Frederick said. "Greg Maddux, I watched an interview with him. People thought he was a guru, and he knew all the batters, but he just put everything he had into making a good pitch. All that other stuff, if you can fully commit to that pitch, you'll be successful.

"There were times in high school I was thinking about a guy on third, or the score — this summer I learned if you shut all that out you'll be a lot better."

Frederick has an invitation to return to the Osos next summer, but he said he's trying to move up to the Frontier League, a higher level of independent professional baseball.

"I'd love to go back, but I don't want to stand too still," Frederick said. "It's a long shot, but the idea is still to one day get in the big leagues."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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