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Calhoun’s Fred Frickie gets his day in the sun

By David Elwell Sports Writer decaturdaily.com

Give Marilyn Beck and her staff credit. They know how to put on a celebration.

The Calhoun Community College president and her staff did a first-class job Saturday with the dedication of the school's softball and baseball complex as Fred Frickie Park.

Some people may have wondered why it took so long to honor the school's longtime baseball coach. He has been retired since 1995.

Part of it is politics. A large financial donation is the quickest way to get your name on something at an Alabama college or university. To name something after someone who deserves it for years of service can take a little longer.

Regardless of how long it took, it has been done. The black sign with "Fred Frickie Park" in gold letters was beaming in the bright Saturday sunshine.

The day started with a lunch outside the baseball field that was really more like a family reunion.

Remarks such as "How old are your kids?" and "Thank goodness they got their momma's looks" and "Thanks for being our daddy while we were away from home" flowed among the former players and their coach.

The ceremony on the field saw Frickie receive so many plaques honoring the day that his wife Martha will have to do some redecorating to display them all at their home.

Calhoun coach Mike Burns played and coached with Frickie. He spoke about how his wife would not allow him to name their sons "Fred," "Bernard" or "Frickie."

"I'm thrilled you have a ballpark named after you," Burns said.

When Frickie got to the podium in front of the pitcher's mound, the coach did what he said he would do. It was more like thank-you notes instead of a speech. The people he thanked included Red Coman, Bill Rudolph, Bob Shuttlesworth, Mickey Sutton, Billy Farris, Burns, Beck and Martha Frickie, and didn't end there.

"I was really nervous," Frickie said later. "I think I would have been more comfortable doing it from the third base coaching box."

The third base coaching box is where Frickie could be found when his Warhawks were at bat.

Mike Kelley from Athens played for Frickie in the 1970s. He was glad the school honored his coach.

"I can't put into words what this man has meant to my life," Kelley said. "He taught us how to be a man just by the way he lived his life. There's no way anybody can know how far his influence has spread through the players he coached. It's gone all over the country. It's amazing. He's amazing."

Keith Cullefer and his wife traveled from Columbus, Ga., to attend the celebration.

"I would not have missed it for anything," said Cullefer, who played for Calhoun in the '70s. "I was 17 when I came here out of high school from Columbus. Coach Frickie took care of me like I was one of his children.

"Back in those days, if you didn't have the money, you didn't go to college. We didn't have the money. I never would have gone to college if not for Coach Frickie. I was blessed to get to come play baseball at Calhoun."

Cullefer would continue his baseball career at the University of Georgia. Today, he's retired from the banking business and said he would like to eventually move to the Decatur area.

"Playing baseball at Calhoun was the shining moment of my baseball career," Cullefer said. "It was because of Coach Frickie. He cemented your faith that there are people in this world who care about you."

Contact David Elwell at 256-340-2395 or David.Elwell@DecaturDaily.com. Follow on Twitter @DD_DavidElwell

Mark Fleming, right, congratulates longtime Calhoun Community College baseball coach Fred Frickie at a ceremony naming the school's ball fields in his honor.