Now Catching For The Angels All-Stars
ROSCOE--Fast pitch softball was the passion of Roscoe's Fritz Kirchner who undoubtedly is now the starting catcher for God's over 50 Angel's All Star Softball team.
Fred J. "Fritz" Kirchner Jr. passed on to his heavenly rewards on March 17 but his softball legacy will live on forever.
An outstanding businessman Fritz was the retired president and co-owner of Kirchner's Chevrolet Corp-Chrysler Dodge Jeep of Roscoe.
Well known for his activity in community organizations like the Roscoe Kiwanis Club, Roscoe-Rockland Chamber of Commerce, the Harold Wood VFW Post # 5911, United Church of Roscoe, Livingston Manor Masonic Lodge #791, the Roscoe Hose Company # 1, the American Legion and Chevrolet's "Only Best Service Managers Club" Fritz also has left fond memories and thoughts in the minds of well-known softball players he was associated with in the old Jeff League, Liberty League and the Monticello league.
Roscoe's Ron Schulte commented "I am honored to have played softball with Fritz for over 30 years and there is no doubt in my mind that fast pitch softball was his passion."
Schulte went on to say that "Fritz was a very good catcher with a quick release and good arm against those who attempted to steal second base."
"What was most impressive about Fritz was his relentless hustle and enthusiasm behind the plate," Schulte said.
Fritz's teams were very competitive and usually contenders. His Lewis Auto team also were champions of the the Sullivan County Democrat Fast Pitch Tournament.
Fritz caught for some very good pitchers over the years including Harvey Buck in the Jeff League, the great Pete Head and his brother Bob Head in the Liberty League and Tim Ackerman in the Monticello League.
Liberty's Tim Terbush referred to Fritz as "an older guy with a younger heart who loved the game."
"He was what we referred to as a softball player who brought blood and guts to every game he played," Terbush noted.
Fritz was well known for his use of an old "flat" catchers glove which always saw him catching the ball with two hands.
He was the manager, captain and catcher for the Lewis Auto Parts team in the Liberty Softball league.
Fellow catcher Brian Starr who played with Fritz on the Lewis Auto Parts team said he believed that Fritz would occasionally play an infield position and that "Fritz was a very energetic person and played the game as if he as 13 or 14-years old and even in his 50's ran down to cover throws from infielders to first base."
"Defensively Fritz never wore shin guards or a chest protector and I'll always remember his high top spikes that he wore," Starr added.
Livingston Manor's Andy Taggart called Fritz "a great competitor and a gentleman who always growled while playing."
"Fritz was as old school as they come and a leadership guy which we respected and followed," Taggart said.
Taggart related a game they were playing in the late 70"s in the Walton Turnament and it was the final game where Fritz was spiked by a player sliding into home and with blood pulsing out of him he refused to leave the game.
"We finally had to drag him off the field to receive medical attention, "Taggart noted.
"Fritz was the perfect example of what baseball/softball evolved from....give me a bat, a ball, a glove, any old field and lets 'play ball," former Liberty Central School varsity baseball coach Harry Rapenske said.
Rapenske years ago organized and managed the Liberty Men's Softball modified/fast pitch softball league where Fritz's Lewis Auto Parts team played.
In noting his softball experience's with Fritz, Rapenske said, "he played hard and expected everyone else to play hard as he was always tough, hard nosed, demanding but fair as you gave your all to the team."
"His teams were very competitive year after year and as a director of the Liberty Fast Pitch league he often said, .... just tell me when we play, where we play and who we play....we'll be there," Rapenske noted.
Although Fritz's teams always battled hard against Repenske's Liberty Lumber Partsteams Harry pointed out that "Fritz was a great ambassador for the game and a guy you could depend on to promote the game and always gave players, old and young, an opportunity to enjoy the game he really loved and enjoyed."
Pete Head, one of the premier pitchers in area softball leagues years ago and who often had Fritz as his catcher, said, "I just can't believe Fritz is gone....to me Fritz was indescribable, even though he was getting up there in years toward the end of our softball years he always played with the grit and determination of a 25-year-old man."
"He would never give up no matter what the score and always had a line or something funny to say to keep the mood in the dugout loose....anyone one of us would run through a brick wall for that man because of the love and respect we all had for him.....losing Fritz just breaks my heart because he was truly one of a kind and the world will never be the same with Fritz gone," Head added.
Fritz Kirchner's exciting, enthusiastic style of play and his love for the game of fast pitch softball will never be forgotten.