Throughout the 50 years that the Howard Palmetto Baseball and Softball Association (HPBSA) has played ball in South Dade, the era of Coach Frank Dodge is remembered with a special reverence and nostalgia for his reign as one of the most beloved and winningest coaches in the history of the league.
Today the third generation of Dodges — Frank Dodge’s grandson and son of former HPBSA player Keith Dodge – 10-year-old Tristan, continues the legacy as the youngest player of the 2012 Dodger’s Championship team.
Native Miamians husband and wife Frank and Diane Dodge and their three children — Kevin, Kelly and Keith — lived just one block from the original playing field at Suniland Park in the late 1960s. Coach Frank and sons Keith and Kevin got involved with the original Khoury League not long after the former rock pit was made into a baseball field.
“We didn’t practice,” said Coach Frank. “We played every day. The kids were like my adopted children and we were a family on the field. We had barbecues and picnics at Matheson Hammock. I tried to make it fun like when Tom Sawyer got the kids to help him paint the fence (in Mark Twain’s classic novel); they wanted to do it. When you are educating youth, you have to be innovative and make it interesting so they want to learn.”
The lifelong friendships and future coaches that grew from those formative years when Frank’s sons Keith and Kevin Dodge played with their neighbor teammates shows his game plan worked.
“We built friendships in the community,” said current HPBSA Coach Keith. “Many of us went to different schools at the time so if we would see each other at parties or events there was already a positive connection.” When Frank’s oldest son Kevin was a student at FSU in 1981 he pitched for the then number one ranked Seminoles. Kevin Dodge’s sons, 12-year old Shane and 11- year-old Wyatt, now play for the Cal Ripken League in their hometown of Tallahassee.
“Dad was a great coach,” said Kevin. “One of my first years out there (in the early ’70s), we were so dominant, we played the all-star teams. There was even a rule at the park called ‘the Dodge Rule’ whereby you could only throw so many pitches per game.”
The Dodge Rule is still in effect today. HPBSA Commissioner Randy Yackee was on Coach Frank’s team from 1969 to 1975. He says Frank could make any situation fun.
“When we were practicing base running,” said Randy, “he would have us run to first base, then to second and then almost to third and back again. He would sit on third base with his hands up in the air screaming, ‘da, da, da, da, da.’”
Moments like that along with Frank Dodge’s famous lemonade slushies are some of Randy’s fondest memories.
Kevin Dodge recalls a county playoff game in Hialeah that his father coached. “There were lots of bad calls and we were getting robbed. It was like Custer’s last stand. One of the team member’s grandmothers took a tree branch and ran out to the field and attacked the umpire with it.
We lost that game.”
Commissioner Randy said Coach Frank taught his players how to win and lose.
“No matter how down you might be, he showed us how to not give up and keep pushing to do your best and be happy. He started me in sports and taught me what sportsmanship is all about.”
HPBSA incoming president Grant Miller echoes the sentiment.
“We made lifelong friends playing together back then as kids,” Miller said. “And we hope to be able to do the same for our children and continue Frank Dodge’s legacy for our children’s children as well.”
“My father has been one of the pillars of this league for 50 years,” said Keith Dodge.
“Coach Raul Gandarillas and I had a blast coaching our sons as well as 10 other great kids this season. We hope to continue the tradition for generations to come.”
Keith’s wife Olga Stanham and daughter, seven-year-old Ella Diane, are Tristan’s number one fans. Keith’s wife Olga Stanham and daughter seven-year-old Ella Diane are Tristan’s number one fans. Ella said the best part about cheering from the stands is: “I get to watch my brother play.” As for Tristan Dodge’s favorite part of the game: “I get to pitch, and I get to play with my friends.”
“I feel so fortunate to have been a part of HPBSA,” said Frank Dodge. “I’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many friends over the years. Now I can relax in the bleachers and watch my son coach and see my grandson play the game he loves so much.”