LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Like so many others around the baseball world, members of the Braves organization are mourning the passing of Jim Fregosi, a beloved figure they were fortunate to call their own for the past 13 seasons.
"There is not a baseball organization at work today that doesn't reflect on what's it going to be like here in Spring Training or during the season when we don't see Jimmy sitting in the press room or on the bench or being around a batting cage with his arms folded across his chest, telling stories and regaling everybody about the wonders of baseball and the joy of baseball and how much he loved it," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "We're going to miss that."
Fregosi died at 2:36 a.m. ET on Friday, six days after he suffered multiple strokes while on a Major League Baseball Alumni cruise. The 71-year-old beloved baseball figure had been airlifted from the Cayman Islands to a Miami hospital on Wednesday night. He was taken off of a life-support system 12 hours before he was pronounced dead.
"I talked to him before he went on the cruise about coming here next week," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He was excited about our team. No matter how we were playing and no matter how things were going, he was one of those guys who could look at the bright side of it and see what we have, instead of what we don't have. He was very much an encourager and one of the best baseball men I've ever been around."
After ending an injury-tarnished 18-year playing career that included All-Star selections during six of his first full seven seasons, Fregosi served as the manager for four different big league clubs, including the Phillies, who under his guidance advanced to the 1993 World Series after beating the Braves in the National League Championship Series.
When Fregosi ended a two-year stint as the Blue Jays manager in 2000, Schuerholz lured his long-time friend to Atlanta to begin what was the first of the 13 seasons he spent as a special assistant to the Braves general manager.
"I've known Jimmy for 45-plus years," Schuerholz said. "We've been together for 13 years. This would have been his 14th season with us. But it doesn't take many years or much time to be with him to feel like he has known you all his life and you've known him all of his life. That was the kind of man he was and the kind of spirit he lived with.
"He gave a lot to the game no matter what uniform he was in, no matter whether he was a player, a coach or a scout. Some people say he could have managed again right now. He was so smart and knew the game so well. I agree with that. He was just a remarkable man and a dear friend. It's a sad day."
A few hours after Fregosi's passing, Braves pitchers and catchers experienced their first Spring Training workout. While the great evaluator never had a chance to see this year's club, his influence on Atlanta's rosters will be felt for many years to come.
While aiding Schuerholz and Wren, Fregosi served as the eyes and ears of the Braves organization throughout the baseball world. When a player or team needed to be evaluated, he was either sent to the scene or called to provide the knowledge that he gained while going coast-to-coast serving as the club's top scout throughout every baseball season.
"Jim was one of the most valuable guys for me in that I talked to him all the time," Wren said. "He had such a wealth of knowledge and he was such a positive force. He scouted all 30 teams for us. He had great knowledge of putting teams together. He was one of those guys you called and then you felt uplifted and encouraged."
Through his travels, Fregosi enlightened and enriched countless individuals who had the opportunity to learn or simply be entertained by the stories he told.
"Nobody could hold court like Jim," Wren said. "Nobody would entertain like Jim. He loved the game. He loved being at the ballpark. He loved every part about it."
Schuerholz said the Braves plan to honor Fregosi in "the most appropriate ways." Details will be determined and announced at a later date.
"It was a sad day and a tough way to start," Schuerholz said. "But we should also remember the great positive spirit he had and his love for this game and how he felt about this great game of baseball and use that to stimulate us every day we have a tough day. When you have a tough day and things aren't going well, remember the spirit of Jim Fregosi."