TAMPA — For Tampa native Frank Permuy, baseball has been more than just a pastime. Permuy, who recently retired from a 40-plus-year high school coaching career, said although baseball has been a major part of his life, the game has been a bigger part of the community he loves so much.
Permuy will join a historic group of Tampa-area high school baseball coaches in a panel discussion and fundraiser for the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House before a viewing party for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday at Higgins Hall at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 5225 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa.
Joining Permuy on the panel will be his childhood friend, Emeterio “Pop” Cuesta, who recently retired after 43 years as the head coach at Jefferson, former Tampa Catholic and University of Tampa coach Pete Mulry, former Hillsborough High coach Billy Reed, along with longtime King coach Jim Macaluso and current Steinbrenner and former Jesuit coach John Crumbley. The group, five of whom attended Tampa high schools themselves, represent nearly 200 years of coaching and have coached more than 80 players from Tampa who have reached the major leagues.
“I think this museum is a tremendous idea, because there is such a rich tradition in baseball from the old, old days like the Al Lopez area that kids today don’t get to know,” said Macaluso, who has coached at King, his alma mater, since the mid-1970s. “I think this will really help the baseball community in Tampa to have something like this, and hopefully a kid can go by there and really see what has gone on in this area.”
The Tampa Baseball Museum, an ongoing project working to commemorate the 125 years of baseball history in Tampa, is being built in the childhood home of the late Al Lopez, Tampa’s first big-league player and the first area player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The museum hopes to showcase not only the area’s history in MLB, but also its culture in the development in the community from travel ball and youth leagues, to the game’s role in independent leagues, factory leagues, social clubs, the Negro Leagues and minor-league teams.
“This area has been spawned a number of great players, but also has a rich baseball history at the youth level as well,” Tampa Baseball Museum president Chantal Hevia said. “There is a great culture to baseball, and certainly this event will be an unparalleled event for our baseball community.”
Tuesday’s panel discussion, emceed by 970 AM host Jack Harris, will be a chance for fans in the community to hear from coaches who have helped steer the careers of a number of former MLB All-Stars.
Hevia said the museum, which will be under the supervision of the non-profit Ybor City History Society, hopes to offer free admission to students in school groups and hopes to find a way in the future to provide area youth programs like Little League reduced admission. The Tampa Baseball Museum, a nearly $1 million project, hopes to open its doors at the Al Lopez House later this year.
The fundraiser will feature a dinner of ballpark fare before the panel discussion, as well as a memorabilia auction and a number of former major-league players on hand to sign autographs. The event is $50 per person, and attendees are encouraged to wear the jerseys and hats of their favorite baseball team. After the panel, there will be a viewing party for the All-Star Game.
“It is great that we are finally going to honor some of the people who have made Tampa what it is,” said Permuy, who retired in May after serving as the only coach at Gaither and amassing 600 wins. “Tampa is a baseball mecca, and the history is so important.’’