Russ Frazier 2007
In 1959 Louisburg Junior College vice-president John York did one of the best recruiting jobs in the school’s 220-year history. He hired Russ Frazier, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, as head baseball coach.
During the next 40 years, Louisburg loyalists could count on at least three things every spring — April showers, May flowers, and winning baseball teams.
Frazier spurned opportunities to coach at other schools, never wanting to leave the idyllic campus, a place near his home and his heart.
While a student at Louisburg, he met Clara Wright, who tutored him in math and became his wife.
To Frazier, Louisburg College was the place to be. And to the Methodist school he was the coach to build a national program. The result:
1,034 wins; 390 losses; 72.6 winning percentage. 22 conference, 12 regional and 9 district titles. 9 trips to the Junior College World Series.
That’s a Hall-of-Fame resume. And Frazier has been elected to four Halls — North Carolina, American Baseball Coaches, National Junior College and Louisburg.
Initially, coaching was a challenge for Frazier, a former infielder at Louisburg, N.C. State — where he earned his undergraduate degree — and in the minor leagues.
His first Louisburg team included several future preachers, but not enough pitchers, and struggled on an intramural field. But from that diamond in the rough he built a dynasty. Frazier recruited hard, won titles, and sparked the construction of a park appropriately named Frazier Field. “I tried to find good hitters and kids who could run,” said Frazier, citing the staples of his teams.
One goal eluded him — a national title. But Frazier, also athletics director 34 years, never had more than than five scholarships. “I wish we could have had more money,’’ he lamented. “We possibly could have won a national championship.”
Frazier, who grew up near Bunn, was an “Old Ball” coach with multi-tasking skills. A typical day included teaching a morning class, preparing the field, coaching his team, then going recruiting. “I never did dread going to work; [and] I tried to make it fun for the kids,” said Frazier, but he remembers one time when baseball wasn’t fun.
Playing at Ferrum on a cold, windy day, and with Louisburg losing, Frazier intentionally got ejected early in the game. That allowed him to watch from the heated team bus, an episode he laughs about now.
But baseball wasn’t a laughing matter to Frazier, noted Keith Stutts, who played on the 1975 team that placed third in the nation. “He was all business; you’d better have your game on,” Stutts said. “[But] he would do anything in the world for you. He helped you in life. He did that for everybody.”
Robin Rose, a second baseman on the ‘75 club, called Frazier a “Father Figure” and noted that his coach’s mantra on giving “100 percent” has helped him in professional life.
While sending more than 75 players to the pros, including 12 to the big league, Frazier’s mission also was to produce solid citizens as well as solid hitters. His world was bigger than a ball park. He served as a Deacon and Trustee at Harris Chapel Baptist Church. And he made time for Clara and son, Rusty, a mortgage broker with Wells Fargo.
Though vacations were often tied to baseball trips, Russ took Clara on a cruise for their 25th wedding anniversary and they flew to Hawaii for ther 50th celebration.
To relax, Russ, always the outdoorsman, hunted and fished on the 300-acre family farm in Youngsville. At 74, he still roams the land, and enjoys Louisburg games at Frazier Field.
Some legends never fade away.
by A.J. Carr
May 1, 2007