While president of Baptist Hospital, Quint Studer attended a special banquet nearly 25 years ago at the Pensacola Bay Center as part of the Fred Waters Youth Baseball Clinic.
In town was baseball royalty. A collection of Pensacola natives in professional baseball, joined with other Major League Baseball star players without ties to the area,. All were in clinic instructors on this January weekend.
The event honored Fred Waters, a former MLB player, who settled in Pensacola in 1958 and became a godfather of baseball in this community, including as head coach at three different high schools during the 1960’s and 70’s.
One of the speakers the night Studer attended was Will Clark, a six-time Major League Baseball All-Star first baseman, whose career spanned 15 years with four different teams, most notably the San Francisco Giants.
“I was blown away,” Studer said, recalling the moment. “I just thought it was the coolest thing to have a guy like Will Clark, and so many other players in Pensacola and a free clinic for kids to honor Fred Waters.”
At Studer’s urging, the Fred Waters Clinic will return on June 10 at Blue Wahoos Stadium. It will be part of Play Ball Weekend, a national initiative with Major League Baseball at MLB and MiLB ballparks around the nation.
“This is going to be such a wonderful thing to keep Fred’s name out there and get so many kids involved,” said Kevin Saucier, who helped lead Escambia High to a pair of state championships with Waters as head coach, then rose into professional baseball and won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies as a reliever on their 1980 team.
“I am so thrilled Quint wanted to do this and get this (clinic) going again. It means a lot to all of us who were part of those clinics all those years ago and the impact that Fred Waters had on kids.”
The Fred Waters event is open to all youths ages 7-12. There is no registration free or entry fee. There will be two clinics, each 90 minutes long depending on age, beginning at 9 a.m. on June 10 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Several current Blue Wahoos players, along with a group of former MLB players and those with MLB ties from Pensacola, will be guest instructors.
All participants will receive a free subscription to MLB.TV and MiLB.TV for the remainder of the season, which itself is a tremendous value.The signup link is available on the Blue Wahoos website.
Saucier, who now works at Blue Wahoos games as a liaison with MLB scouts and executives visiting Pensacola, has joined with Hall of Fame baseball scout Mike Russell, a Gulf Breeze resident and long-time scout with the Detroit Tigers, in helping coordinate and assemble the June 10 event.
They have gained commitments as guest instructors from some of Pensacola’s greatest baseball players. Four have played in a World Series – Greg Litton (SF Giants), Tim Spooneybarger (Marlins), Adron Chambers (Cardinals) and Saucier with Phillies.
In addition, former Miami Marlins manager/general manager Dan Jennings, a Mobile native who is now with the Washington Nationals, has committed. Other former Pensacola players who played in the big leagues – Hosken Powell, Billy Sadler, Phil Hiatt, Dennis Lewallyn – have joined.
Powell, 68, is one of Pensacola’s baseball pioneers, becoming a first-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 1975 and later playing on Twins teams with some of their greatest players. In addition, long-time University of West Florida baseball coach Mike Jeffcoat and Pensacola State College coach Brian Lewallyn, will be among the instructors.
“Quint was very impressed with the people we had in those days at the Fred Waters Clinic when it was at UWF,” Saucier said. “I mean in those days, we had Tommy Lasorda one year, Dusty Baker one year, all of our guys playing then like Travis (Fryman) and Jay (Bell) and Jimmy Presley. Buck (Showalter, now NY Mets manager) was part of it. I mean it was a huge deal.
“So Quint approached Mike and I and said he knew this couldn’t be to that degree, but he would like to keep Fred’s name, keep this going. We will set up stations just like we did then. The bottom line is for kids to have fun. Stay involved in the game of baseball and have fun with it. That’s the way Fred Waters wanted it.”
The first Fred Waters Clinic occurred in 1990, five months after he passed away at age 62 on Aug. 28, 1989 from cancer. The event went for 11 consecutive years until 2001.
Waters, a Denton, Miss. native, went on to play football and baseball at the University of Southern Mississippi. He then rose into the Major Leagues, making his debut in 1955 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitcher.
Three years later, he moved to Pensacola and spent the rest of his life in this community. He was a high school coach, summer pro coach with the Twins’ Appalachian League affiliate in Elizabethton, Tenn., then pro scout for the Twins. He was a mentor to thousands of aspiring players from Pensacola under his guidance.
Waters led Pensacola High to state runner-up feats in 1962 and ’63. With Saucier and Preston Hanna, who later pitched eight years in the big leagues, mostly with the Atlanta Braves, as star high school teammates, Escambia won state Class 4A titles under Waters’ tutelage in 1972 and ’74.
Dennis Lewallyn, who reached the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers before becoming long-time pitching coach, was part of Escambia’s teams under Waters prior to those seasons.
“(Waters) not only taught you about baseball, he taught you about how to conduct yourself in life. I wouldn’t have reached the major leagues without him,” said Saucier in a PNJ story in 1989 when Waters passed away.
It is one of many reasons why long-time baseball people in the Pensacola area were so grateful for Waters’ impact. And his legacy and career within Major League Baseball presents a good tie-in to MLB’s current youth initiatives with Play Ball Weekend.
“We need to keep our kids involved in sports,” Saucier said. “It is so important for that to happen. Being able to bring back the Fred Waters Clinic speaks volumes about Quint and how he wanted to help the community. When Quint wants to do something it is always for the betterment of the city.”
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Fred Waters Baseball Camp
WHEN: June 10, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium
WHO: Open to youth baseball and softball players ages 7-12.
ADMISSION: Parents and spectators are welcome in stadium to watch at no charge.
INSTRUCTORS: Will include four Pensacola men who played in an World Series, other former Pensacola MLB players, former Miami Marlins manager/general manager Dan Jennings, UWF coach Mike Jeffcoat, PSC coach Brian Lewallyn, Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers scout Mike Russell, along with some current Blue Wahoos players.
YOUTH SIGNUP: Available through www.bluewahoos.com at these links: http://pensacolabluewahoos.leagueapps.com/events/3879807 and http://pensacolabluewahoos.leagueapps.com/events/3930842.