by Scott Kindberg
July 3, 2011
Reuniting Frewsburg’s Bears
So when morning thankfully arrived - the Bears were scheduled to play at 10 a.m. - Schmitt couldn't wait to get on the bus and head to the field so that his kids could stretch out and take some batting practice.
"I got down there and I'm the only one on the bus," he said. Well, not exactly.
I was one of just a few people who shared those agonizing moments with Schmitt as we waited and waited and waited for his players. Keep in mind, in those days nobody had a cell phone, so Schmitt had no idea where they were and why they were delayed.
In truth, the boys, accompanied by some parents, had just gone for breakfast, but the service at the restaurant was so slow that the team left before a meal was even served. When the players finally returned, Schmitt was quietly seething.
He needn't have worried.
All the Bears did was bat around in three different innings and went on to wallop Lake Placid, 28-1, to advance to the championship game.
When the victorious team boarded the bus after the rout, Schmitt paused long enough to uncork the most famous six words in the program's history.
"It must,'' he said with a straight face, "have been the breakfast."
Later that afternoon, Frewsburg built an early lead and held on for an 11-7 victory over Heuvelton to capture its second state title, joining the crew from 1991.
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The Bears have won 18 sectional titles in their history, the most of any program in Western New York. Their three state titles - the last one came in 1996 - are a source of pride not only for the players and coaches on those teams, but also for the baseball alumni and the greater Frewsburg community.
From the coaches during my tenure covering local sports (they include, in addition to Schmitt, Bill Hair, Dave Champ, Bud Foust and current skipper Jay Grann) to the many outstanding players (did you know Shane Conlan was an outstanding catcher in the late 1970s and early 1980s?), Frewsburg has maintained a level of excellence for decades.
"The program, in general, has a lot of tradition that we take pride in,'' said Mike Sheesley, who tossed a no-hitter in the 1996 state championship game. "Building a quality program in such a small community is pretty unique. It's something I want my kids to experience when they're old enough. That's what we're trying to do in bringing all the guys together."
Speaking of bringing the guys together ...
The Frewsburg baseball program is holding a reunion on Saturday at the varsity field behind the Robert H. Jackson Elementary School in Frewsburg. Activities include a home run derby at 10 a.m. on the adjacent softball field followed by an alumni game at 11 on the baseball diamond, which will be held simultaneously with a cookout. Children are invited. Alumni hats and shirts are also available for purchase (pre-order with Sheesley).
The weekend festivities begin on Friday at the Nic-L Inn Restaurant. A cocktail hour will begin at 6, followed by dinner at 7. Contact Sheesley (569-3558) or search ''Frewsburg Baseball Alumni" on Facebook for more details. All proceeds from the events will benefit the current Bears varsity team.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the guys,'' said Schmitt, who coached for 13 years. "I was fortunate to be part of the Frewsburg community. I made a lot of friends and I'm grateful for the three state championships and so much more."
While Bears' fans remember Chris Emley's clutch three-run home run in the state semifinal game against Rensselaer in 1991, the rout of Lake Placid in 1995 and Sheesley's no-hitter against Pawling in 1996, Schmitt said he's equally proud of all those who have worn a Frewsburg uniform.
"Of course, the ultimate goal is to win the state championship,'' he said, "but there are so many steps along the way you have to take. ...Sometimes you take a step backward and things don't work out, but if you feel that you did everything you could and played the best you could, you should feel as good as the kids who won a state championship, because you have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best."