Ray Fritter swears he doesn't daydream about softball when he is at work.
But before you believe him, look inside Fritter's compact office at Associated Glass Inc. in Fairfax.The passion of his life clutters every shelf, corner and available table top. And if you decide to count, you will find trophies for 41 softball tournament championships towering along the walls like gleaming stalagmites.
Fritter in truth, always puts in long days managing his prosperous commercial glass business. But every weekend from April to August, he puts on his "Glass Pack" uniform and manages one of the most successful amateur slow-pitch teams ever to play in Northern Virginia.
This year, Fritter shared the helm with Greg Romantas and the team compiled a record of 78-22. That's easy to understand with players like Allen Kendall, a .658 hitter with 55 homers, 40 doubles and 184 RBI; Ron Leeper, a .602 hitter who has poked 62 home runs and knocked in 166 runs, and Richcie Thomas, batting a mere .561 with 58 round-trippers, 43 doubles and 158 RBI.
That is not all. The 15-man team sports a .543 batting average and has collected 1,793 hits, 1,472 runs batted in and 468 homers.
Although they failed to survive the double-elimination event, the Glass Pack was the first team from Northern Virginia to participate in the "World Series" of orgainized amateur softball - the National Open tournament in Sacramento, Calif. - earlier this month.
"A few years ago, I never thought this would have been possible," siad Fritter, whose bushy gray hair and thick-lensed glasses make him look older than his 40 years.
"Softball really just started out for me as a fun-type thing, something you do on a Sunday afternoon," he added. "But in no time, I was dreaming about putting together the best softball team you'd ever want to see. It was just something I had to do. I guess I've been pretty lucky."
Lucky is the wrong word. Since 1970, when he formed his first team, Fritter has patiently scouted players throughout his native Fairfax County, keeping notes on every potential star. He has traversed the entire state of Virginia to convince players to join his team.
But if Fritter's strong point is his skill fo assembling a powerhouse, his magic is in keeping it glued together. Unlike the ligthearted softball contests which most weekend hackers are accustomed to, the softball of the Class AA Glass Pack is serious business.
The players, who range in age from 24 to 36, work during the week in jobs as diverse as Fairfax County detective and Department of Commerce employe. But once they don their softball uniforms, many of the players relive the intense rivalries and competition of past high school glory days and brief stints in professional baseball.
"Ray has got to keep a bunch of guys with large egos happy," said John Kirik, the team's shortstop and former AAA prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies. "Every one of the guys on the bench could be starting for any other team in the county. But they stick with Ray. We all do.
"He knows how to handle people. He's quiet man, stern when he has to be - and always genuine."
Fritter constantly encourages the wives and children of each player to travel with the team on third weekly trips up and down the East Coast tournament circuit. This year, he estimates that he has spent over $10,000 on hotel accommodations and meals for his players and their families.
"These guys are my buddies, my good friends," said Fritter. "They are giving me something very special and I want to do right by them."
Last year, Fritter missed his first softball games in eight seasons when he underwent two operations for ulcers. Fritter says it is the pressures of the glass business. Kirik thinks that softball had something to do with it too.
"This whole thing means a lot to Ray and we don't want to let him down," said Kirik. "I know he and his wife Laura have never had any kids and I really think he looks at this team as his boys. And now he's taking his boys to play in the World Series."