It’s 1992 in Dallas, Texas, and Stu Fritz is an eager graduate student from Northern Colorado attending his first American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Convention. He is there to take in as much information and meet as many people as he can for his soon-to-be profession. And as he walks the convention’s halls, he wonders, “Who are those guys in sport coats with silver name badges?”
Press fast forward.
It’s 2019 in Dallas, Texas, and Stu Fritz is a seasoned and successful head baseball coach for Hope College attending his 28 consecutive ABCA Convention. He is there to coordinate the distribution of in-depth and innovative information on his longtime profession. And as he walks the convention halls, Fritz is one of those guys in a sport coat with a silver name badge.
It is ABCA board of directors who wear those shiny emblems. As the ABCA’s second vice president in 2018, Fritz was the one responsible for what 7,000 baseball coaches would learn, and from whom, at the convention this past January. (Fritz had been the president of NCAA Division III with the ABCA before joining its board in 2016.) Clinics on pitching and catching, base-running and fielding, recruiting and player development, game strategy and game-time mental approach were all topics selected by Fritz and his committee. And, he found the speakers, too, for 25 mainstage presentation at the world’s largest baseball clinic.
“It was a dream come true,” Fritz says. “I know that might sound a little aggressive, but working on this year’s convention, working with all the guys I worked with, it was just a thrill for me.”
Through his own personal connections — which run deep in baseball fields across the country and all NCAA divisions — and by his professional invitations, Fritz got creative. He stretched topic ideas and featured speakers, including the likes of former St. Louis Cardinal Mike Matheny to give the keynote address and University of Alabama softball coach Pat Murphy to address leadership development.
“Since I’m a big Cardinal fan, having Mike agree to speak at the convention was just awesome,” Fritz explains. “And it was my goal to put a head softball coach on the mainstage of the baseball convention. Murph has been a buddy of mine since high school, and he’s become legendary in terms what he’s done with that’s programs culture and win record.”
Fritz says his days were long at the four-day event, a before-dawn and well-after dusk requirement. While he had lined up each speaker prior, he also stayed in touch with them as they developed their topics as well as introduced them to the membership before each clinic at the convention.
Then, he took a seat in the audience to gain new knowledge, too.
“We target a wide range of speakers and talking with them about their topics and programs certainly makes me a better coach,” Fritz explains. “I get to be involved with their presentation from the beginning so I learn as they continue to change their presentation to get the final product. These are some of the best baseball minds in the country so I soak up as much as I can.”
You may think that with this full-circle convention story, Fritz’s journey is complete with the ABCA, but you’d be wrong. His baseball story at Hope and with his professional organization keeps rotating. As he opens his 26th season at the helm of Flying Dutchmen this weekend, Fritz enters another year on the ABCA board as the first vice president in 2019. He’ll become its president in 2020. His interactions with the ABCA, just like this work at Hope, is about valuing relationships in the game and classroom.
“I wanted to put the best product out there for our membership as I could,” says Fritz who is also an assistant professor of kinesiology. “This is the same when I teach and coach. I believe that each student and athlete deserves the best that I have to give each day. This experience has definitely broadened my knowledge as a coach and as a professor.”