24 May 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
COSTA MESA — He has heard it from umpires, coaches, spectators and reporters, from anybody who remembers anything about the ’60s and ’70s.
He is Joey Fregosi and he plays baseball. You really have to ask if he’s kin?
“I’ve seen pictures of me in a diaper, swinging a bat,” he said Thursday. “I’ve been around it all my life. They always ask, ‘Is that your grandpa?’ There can be a little pressure in that.”
Joey is a middle infielder for Orange Coast College. There’s a little pressure in that, too. The Pirates are playing for the state championship in Fresno beginning Saturday, in a best-of-3 with Sacramento City College. They were in the same place last year and lost. They have won three of the past 10 state titles and six overall, and there are big banners to that effect on the fence at Pirate Park.
The grandpa was Jim Fregosi. He would have been in the midst of Fresno, and he would have been heard. He passed away on a cruise on Valentine’s Day 2014. They called Joey out of class at Murrieta Valley High to tell him.
In between, Jim Fregosi Jr. is a special assistant to Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore. He played minor league baseball and knows how the old man could stir up a room, even the outdoor ones.
“He lived in Florida,” Joey said, “but he came out as much as he could. He would be in the stands arguing with parents. He was always that guy.”
“I remember he was at a basketball game watching one of my kids, who got hit,” Jim Jr. said, “and he wanted to go after the other kid’s parents. He was on the umpires and referees, too. But then he’d be laughing a few seconds later.”
Fregosi was the first real star in Angels history and, in 1979, managed the Angels’ first playoff team. He had three other managing jobs, including the Phillies in 1993 when Toronto’s Joe Carter sent a World Series-winning home run over the fence in Game 6.
Near the end, with the White Sox, he was having a rough day at shortstop. Pitcher Tom Seaver glared at him all the way into the dugout.
Fregosi glared back and said, “Hey, Tom. Pitch around me.”
He was blustery and fiery and funny and tyrannically opinionated. As a manager, he spent the pregame hours playing cards with the 20-game winner and .200 hitters alike.
“He taught me all those games, too, like gin and poker and blackjack,” Joey said. “Gin was his favorite.
“I remember going to my grandma’s house and seeing old pictures, seeing the contracts that he signed. Back then they were on index cards. That was pretty neat.”
But even though baseball kids have genetic advantages, their fathers weren’t there to refine them. The elder Fregosi was playing and managing when Jim Jr. grew up, and Jim Jr. is often watching somebody’s batting practice when Joey is playing.
“My wife (Mary) is the MVP,” Jim Jr. said. “She’s the one who took Joey to all the games and practices. Nowadays you can follow the games on your phone. Often I’m in the hotel room writing up my reports when he’s playing. That’s just the baseball life. I grew up with it and he did too.”
Joey has been banged up much of the year. He is hitting .257. A couple of weeks ago, he tripled down the right-field line to turn a 7-6 lead into a 9-6 playoff win over Long Beach City.
Joey was headed to New Mexico, where his dad played, but academics sent him to Orange Coast. “You’re in junior college for a reason,” he said. Cumberland University, an NAIA school in Lebanon, Tenn., has offered him a ride next year.
He might never find better competition than in the Orange Empire Conference, which sent four teams to the playoffs this year. The Pirates are 35-8-1.
Catcher/DH Tyler Lasch has a 1.067 OPS, Murphy Stehly is hitting .383 as “our do-everything shortstop,” according to coach John Altobelli. Davis Delorefice is hitting .370 and leads the club with four saves.
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The late Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City’s All-Star closer, played at OCC. So did former Angels Daryl Sconiers and Donnie Hill and current Seattle Mariners reliever Brandon Brennan.
“Most people that we play, you’re going to see them at the next level,” Joey said. “Seven or eight of us were in Fresno last year. We know what it’s like.”
Somehow Jim Jr. finds himself in Oakland this weekend, adding to what scouts call their “coverage.” Fresno is 175 miles east.
“There’s a chance,” he said, “that I might be able to slip away.”