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Gilmer, Frashure honoring Jaffre

Six years ago, a talented, upstart freshman earned a starting spot on one of the state's rising Class A baseball programs.

He validated his coach's confidence with a solid season and went on a standout prep career. He and his coach hit the pinnacle in 1996 with a state tournament berth.

The bond hardly snapped on graduation day, 1998. As a freshman at Glenville State, Joey Frashure again was asked to join the Gilmer County High School dugout as an assistant coach. Frashure didn't hesitate to don the pinstripes.

The reason was simple. Coach came calling, and you don't say no to a good guy like David Jaffre.

During the past two years, Jaffre and Frashure have maintained and even prodded further the success of Gilmer County baseball. Their run, however, came to a tragic end when Jaffre suffered a fatal heart attack during Tuesday's sectional opener against Doddridge County.

Since then, a blur. The players and community have rallied around each other, the Titans have kept winning, and suddenly Frashure is the young man they call, "Coach."

Just 20-years-old and a college junior-to-be, Frashure has held up more than admirably. He certainly has his own bereavement, but it's easy to tell that this week is about the kids -- and a man he truly admired.

Each day has brought a heart-wrenching challenge. On Thursday, a memorial service was held. Friday brought a special viewing for the team. Saturday was the funeral.

By the way, Gilmer County defeated Doddridge County, 6-3, on Thursday and blanked Notre Dame, 10-0, on Saturday for the sectional title.

"Overall the team is doing about as well as can be expected," Frashure said. "We've had different things each day.

"Friday's viewing really seemed to help them. They shared stories about coach Jaffre. It was a real tense atmosphere at first and then things loosened up and everybody settled down."

Frashure surely had his share of stories. He first met Jaffre years ago through his father, Larry Frashure. The elder Frashure and Jaffre were buddies who played softball and coached together. It wasn't unusual to Jaffre to make an appearance at a Frashure family reunion.

Jaffre coached two of Larry's son, first Travis and then Joey.

"He was an excellent coach," Joey Frashure said. "He was the first to get on you, but you always knew why. That was one of the best things about coach. He was so straightforward. As a freshman I made a lot of mistakes, but he made it easy to learn from."

Frashure also praised Jaffre as a pure baseball guy, an x's and o's master. During the summer he was regular at Babe Ruth diamonds and kept separate notebooks on each of his players.

When it came time for trimming the roster, Jaffre spent time with each player explaining what their role would be or why they were cut.

When it came time for Frashure to join the Titan coaching staff, Jaffre again saw the big picture.

"I was a freshman in college, and he understood what he was asking me to do," Frashure said. "He said it could be tough because I played with a lot of the guys on the team, but he took care of me. They respected me as much as him, and it was because of him."

Armed with a coach they respect and bonded by the memory of a great man, Gilmer County's Titans are just two wins from the state tournament. One can only imagine how proud would be.

Sports editor Anthony Hanshew can be reached at 626-1444.

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