SPRINGFIELD – It was a slow start to the season for the Springfield Millers in head coach Jim Fryback’s return. The Millers lost their first two games by a combined score of 25-4. They turned it around last week though, hosting a tournament and going 3-0, beating Elmira 19-3, South Eugene 7-5, and McDaniel 7-3.
“With the new coaching staff here, there were a lot of communication problems. … But they’re buying in and they’re working really hard,” Fryback said. “We’ve got great kids that work hard and they’re starting to figure out this does work. If we communicate, and we do the cutoffs and relays and make baseball plays, things are gonna work out.”
After a dominant win over Elmira, Springfield opened big leads in the sixth innings of both the South Eugene (5 runs) and McDaniel (6 runs) victories.
“What really carried over for us is how we stuck in there and competed,” Fryback said after the South Eugene win. “Before, we’d put our heads down and have a ‘poor me’ type of attitude. But today, we just kept going, kept going and going and going, and things worked our way.”
For Fryback, he makes his return to the helm of Springfield for his third stint after coaching the team in the 1970s and late ’90s. Almost 50 years after he was first hired, Fryback is coaching the Millers again, and he brought a dynamic group of experienced coaches with him. There’s Frank Snook, who pitched for the San Diego Padres in 1973, serving as the pitching coach; Art Blunt, a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1960s; and associate head coach Mike Kane, who has almost 40 years of coaching experience.
What’s the return been like for Fryback and his staff?
“It’s been so much fun for the coaches because we have more fun than the kids,” he said. “They’re starting to get used to our humor and realizing that the game is fun. That’s why they call it a game.”
The roster is a different story, though. Springfield brings back only five players from last year. The key for Fryback has been making sure the new players understand that they belong.
“The big thing is we’re telling them that they’re varsity players. Not freshmen or sophomores, varsity players,” Fryback said.
The goal for the team this season is to focus on what it means to be “the Millers,” the coach said. Fryback has hung up signs in the team’s locker room symbolizing what each letter of “Millers” means.
“They’re finding out that if you’re mentally tough, and you have some integrity, loyalty, leadership, energy, respect, and spirit, then things will work out if you keep believing,” Fryback said.