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home : sports & recreation : sports & recreation October 15, 2018

2/6/2018 2:03:00 PM
Local man continues baseball odyssey
Gene Frechette has taught proper pitching biomechanics for years. photo by Craig Rullman
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Gene Frechette has taught proper pitching biomechanics for years. photo by Craig Rullman

By Craig Rullman

Gene Frechette knows something about baseball. Frechette, a former resident of Sisters now living in Eagle Crest, has spent 55 years associated with professional baseball, and he's on a mission to preserve the arms of young pitchers.

Frechette is among the deans of professional pitching instruction.

Orlanda Cepeda, a 1999 inductee into the baseball Hall of Fame, had this to say: "In my career as a player I hit against many premier pitchers who had exceptionally good pitching mechanics. Gene is one of the select handful of teachers out there who I consider one of the best. He teaches youngsters the use of full-body mechanics from balance over the rubber, plant and propel to follow through and finish off."

"It's about learning to pitch, instead of just throw," Frechette told The Nugget in his office, which is covered with memorabilia from his decades as an associate MLB scout with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, the Oakland A's, the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Frechette's insistence on the proper biomechanics changes the forces put on a pitcher's arm and elbow, so that the rest of a pitcher's body is doing the work, and "the arm is just coming along for the ride."

Gene points to gamers like Roy Oswalt and Tim Lincecum as evidence of his method's success, and Hall of Famers like Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton as examples of the longevity provided by proper biomechanics in pitching.

"In 1971," Gene said, "Carlton went 20-19. The next year he changed his mechanics. That season he went 27-10, pitched 30 complete games, pitched 346 innings, struck-out 310 batters and had an ERA of 1.97. And he won the Cy Young. Do the math."

Baseball fans may have noticed the alarming number of pitchers in recent years who have fallen to injury and "Tommy John" elbow surgery. Gene's system is designed to prevent potentially career-ending injury and surgery and, he says, will actually increase a pitcher's velocity by 5-10 mph.

"When I was pitching I couldn't dent sand," Frechette said. "But my mechanics were right, and I had control."

Gene, who wears a 1957 Cardinals World Series ring, is well-known in baseball circles for having scouted Dusty Baker out of high school in the Sacramento area. Years later, he would partner with Baker and become the CEO of the wildly successful Dusty Baker International Baseball Academy, a post he held for almost 30 years.

He remains good friends with Baker, and their camps have been a launching pad for numerous professional baseball hopefuls.

A native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Frechette is also a veteran of the Korean War, where he served with the 5th Air Force. He is also a talented swing musician, and once played drums behind Louis Armstrong while on leave in Japan. "It was only one song," Gene says, "but what a thrill, and I did pretty good."

Following the war Frechette returned to Michigan, where he earned a College World Series ring as a pitcher for Western Michigan University, and his favorite baseball memory.

"I was older and knew I wasn't going anywhere as a player," Gene says. "We were playing Miami of Ohio, down 5-0 in the fifth, and had used up all of our pitchers. I didn't think I'd get in the game, you know, I just wanted to be around baseball knowing I had no chance of getting drafted. But they brought me in and I pitched a no-hitter the rest of the way and we won 9-8. I could have run for mayor that night."

Frechette is currently organizing a free two-hour clinic in Central Oregon, date to be determined, to help pitchers of all ages learn proper biomechanics and increase their velocity.

Attendees would be asked to make a one-time, tax-deductible donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.

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