Sports

Little League coach saw Fromm’s leadership

Jake Fromm smiles at a thumbs up from coach Buddy Deal, right, after winning a nine-inning slog against the Great Lakes team from La Grange, Kentucky in the Little League World Series in 2011. Fromm will lead UGA at quarterback in the college football national championship game Monday.
Jake Fromm smiles at a thumbs up from coach Buddy Deal, right, after winning a nine-inning slog against the Great Lakes team from La Grange, Kentucky in the Little League World Series in 2011. Fromm will lead UGA at quarterback in the college football national championship game Monday.

In 2011, Jake Fromm was on the national stage as the 5-11, 163 lb. stud pitcher for the Southeast in the Little League World Series.

Ironically, No. 11 has again become a household name as he tries to be only the second true freshman quarterback to win an NCCA football National Championship title.

Just google “true freshman” and dozens of articles about Fromm are available. The graduate of Houston County High School played both football and baseball where he excelled at both. The folks in Warner Robins knew he was special long before he became the starter for the University of Georgia.

Those who live in Houston County are proudly sporting No. 11 jerseys, UGA flags and holding out hope that hometown star Fromm will be the one who will give them a football championship after a long drought.

Buddy Deal coached Fromm when he was on the 9-10 year old Diamond Dominators travel ball team. That year, the team won the USSSA state title. Deal was also one of the coaches for the 2011 Warner Robins American Little League team. The year Fromm stepped into the spotlight. He remembers the exact moment he realized when Fromm was a true competitor.

In Williamsport, before one of the games, Deal gave all 14 players on the team a piece of paper and pencil. He told them to write down their own starting lineup.

“Jake said, ‘We are gonna win this on defense,’” Deal recalled.

Fromm named Jacob Giles as the shortstop, explaining Giles was the better player at that position. Josh Goodman, who played catcher, piped in to say he wanted that spot.

“I’ll never forget. Jake said, ‘Josh, you’re hurt right now. You are one of my best friends but I’m going to have to play someone else,’” Deal said. He said he looked at manager Phillip Johnson and they both nudged each other, realizing that this 12-year- old knew what was at stake and how to lead.

Fromm played baseball at Houston County High School, helping his team win the state championship his junior year. Veterans High School student Leyton Pinckney, who also played at WRALL, played many games against Fromm.

Pinckney and his teammates had a hidden ball trick they used to get players out. Pinckney chuckled as he rattled off names of former Houston County and WRALL Southeast players they had gotten out on the play.

“We could never get Jake. He was too smart,” Pinckney said shaking his head.

Deal still keeps in touch with Fromm and they usually send text messages at least once a week. What brings a smile to Deal’s face is that Fromm is the same kid he coached at the Little League World Series.

As he took the camera crew from ESPN around town Thursday and Friday, Deal stopped at Chuck’s Bait and Tackle to show them where Fromm bought his first bow and his first gun. They stopped to get a Fromm Burger at The Butcher Shop.

Fromm is still an avid hunter and fisherman. He is a member at Southside Baptist Church where Pastor Jerry Walls is a die-hard University of Alabama fan. He has also been known to do his own carpool karaoke to country singer Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Backroad” with his family.

During that summer of ’11, when Jake Fromm stepped into the spotlight, until now when he stepped onto the field to play his first collegiate game, his connections to his roots stay strong.

Fromm came up with the motto that year for the 11-12 year old All Star team. From the movie, “Talladega Nights,” his favorite way to start the game was to say, “Shake ‘n Bake.”

“I got so tired of that movie,” Deal said with a laugh as he remembered how Fromm could quote the movie by heart and do some of the accents.

Recently, Deal sent Fromm a text of encouragement.

“Shake ‘n bake,” it said.

“Shake ‘n bake,” was the message Fromm sent back.

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