Jagoda Stops By To See Former Players, Manager Who Gave Him Start
Frank Jagoda III sat in the bleachers down the left-field line at Diethrick Park on Thursday night, looked out at the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game playing out before him and marveled at the serendipity of it all.
“There’s a high school kid from San Diego with a kid from Dinwiddie, Virginia with a bunch of kids from Pittsburgh and a kid from Buffalo, and they are here in Jamestown, New York,” he said. “And, they’re playing really good college baseball.”
For the record, the Jamestown Jammers defeated Geneva, 13-5, to improve to 22-9 and a full nine games in front of the Red Wings in the West Division.
For Jagoda, personally, he couldn’t lose.
In town for the weekend with his wife, the former Tara Darling of Bemus Point, the Dunkirk native, who now serves as the rehabilitation coordinator with the Minnesota Twins, visited the stadium on Jamestown’s eastside because he had a connection with several members on the Jammers’ roster as well as their manager, Anthony Barone.
“I haven’t been able to just enjoy a baseball game in quite a while,” he said. “Just to come here, relax, have a cold beer and watch these kids play baseball is pretty special.”
Three Jammers — first baseman Brandon Nania, second baseman Rashad Stewart and left fielder Josh Brammell — played for Jagoda when the latter was the head coach at Patrick Henry (Virginia) Community College. A fourth player on Jamestown’s roster, third baseman Sterling Hayes, was a camper at Vanderbilt University in 2013 when Jagoda was an instructor, while a fifth, shortstop Alex O’Donnell, was recruited by Jagoda when they were both at Canisius College.
“They’re all good kids,” Jagoda said.
Their baseball resumes are pretty impressive, too.
Nania is Patrick Henry’s career leader in home runs, doubles and RBIs; Stewart tops the program’s career hits, stolen bases and batting average lists; and Brammell is third all-time in batting average. For his part, Jagoda compiled a 79-38 record as Patrick Henry’s head coach, while also winning the 2016 Region X regular-season championship and earning the 2016 Region X Coach of the Year. He took the job in the Twins’ organization early this year, continuing a baseball odyssey that had its beginnings as a player and coach under Barone at Jamestown Community College.
“I started my coaching career in the same dugout as Anthony,” Jagoda said. “I owe a lot of my career to him. He gave me a second chance as a player when I left the University at Buffalo. He gave me a chance as a young coach to be his assistant. Ten years ago is where I started with him. Now, I’m very fortunate to be in professional baseball after a few stops in the middle, but Anthony was the one who gave me a chance as a player and a coach.”
Returning to Diethrick Park was also memorable for Jagoda for another reason. Fifteen years ago, he played in the Babe Ruth 16-year-old World Series as a member of the Chautauqua County team.
“Believe it or not, the stands were filled up,” he said. “I was playing with some of my longest friends in baseball. Guys like Jordan Bardo (of Jamestown), Alex Shaw from Fredonia and Brian Kiendl from Maple Grove. It was really a cool experience. What was special for me was having my dad (Frank II) in the dugout as the manager.
The host team was 1-3 in the World Series, but Jagoda was the winning pitcher in its lone victory and was ultimately named to the all-tournament team as a utility player. To this day, he considers that week his fondest memory at Diethrick Park.
Last night was also pretty special, because Jagoda and his wife were at a place where it all began.
“These kids meant a lot for me in my career and my wife was very involved with them as well,” he said. “We found out they were at home, and she was excited to come and watch them, (too).”