Phillies, Braves honor Jim Fregosi

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a black tablecloth draped over an empty press-room table, his straw hat sitting in his favorite seat, and his friends, family and former teams gathered along the baselines, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies honored the late Jim Fregosi in a 12-minute pregame ceremony Wednesday.

Fregosi, 71, died Feb. 14 after suffering a series of strokes while on a Major League Baseball Alumni cruise in the Cayman Islands. He spent 53 years in professional baseball as a player, manager, scout and executive. He had worked as a special assistant to Braves general manager Frank Wren for 13 seasons at the time of his death.

As part of Wednesday's tribute to Fregosi, 10 longtime friends donned the uniforms he once wore for 10 teams he either managed, played or worked for during his career. Scouts converged from all over Florida to pay their respects.

His grandson, Robby, threw out the first pitch. And Fregosi's traditional seat in the scout section at Bright House Field -- Row 8, Seat 1, Section 111 -- was left empty, except for his hat, which was placed there by Wren.

Braves president John Schuerholz spoke to the crowd, calling Fregosi a "remarkable man" who lived "a wonderful life."

"Jim loved life," Schuerholz said, "but cared more about all of ours. He filled many rooms with his presence but many more with his love. He taught me how to listen. I really had no choice when I was with Jim.

"He demonstrated every day that it was far better to be passionate than to be passive. He had very strong opinions, which he easily and comfortably and readily shared with all of us. When someone needed lifting up, Jim was there to lift them up. He was a dear, dear friend to me and to many of us. And he left us with many great memories we can cherish for the rest of our lives."

Schuerholz also told the crowd that just last year, Fregosi gave him a plaque that described the "purpose of life."

Life's journey, the plaque said, was not about reaching "the end" with a "well-preserved body," but "rather to skid sideways, totally worn out, shouting 'Holy smoke, what a ride.'"

That plaque, Schuerholz said before the ceremony, "is hanging in my office, right next to his picture."

And, he said, it embodied the way Fregosi lived his own life.

"I loved him," Schuerholz said. "I loved being around him. I loved his personality. I loved how he loved life. I loved how he loved what we do. I loved that he was a major league player when he was 18, and an All-Star and a manager, and a scout of great reliability, with great passion for his work. I loved all that about him. And I loved being his friend."

Phillies president Dave Montgomery also addressed the crowd, calling Fregosi "a baseball treasure." Fregosi managed the Phillies from 1991 to 1996 and led them to the 1993 World Series, where they lost to Toronto in six games.

"Jim Fregosi loved the game of baseball," Montgomery said, "and enjoyed his association with everyone in the game. In turn, those of us in the game loved him and formed lifelong friendships with him. It never mattered how long it had been since you had played with him, he had managed you or you had worked with him. You were excited to see him."

Montgomery then turned to Fregosi's wife, Joni, and thanked her, and the entire Fregosi family, "for sharing him with all of us."