Frank Mattox, who had been a scout with the Mariners for 17 years, died at his Peoria, Ariz., home Sunday night.
PEORIA, Ariz. — It was about this time last year that former Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price picked up his telephone to take a call from an old friend.
On the other end was veteran Mariners scout Frank Mattox, who had played with Price at the University of California in the 1980s. They had worked together for years in Seattle before Price left the organization after the 2006 season, but both lived in the Phoenix area and they frequently kept in touch.
Mattox died suddenly Sunday at the age of 49, having just sat down to watch the Academy Awards at his home in Peoria upon returning from a funeral in Virginia. As the Mariners and others reacted with shock Monday to the passing of a 17-year veteran of the organization, Price reflected on what Mattox said in that brief phone conversation.
“He said, ‘I’m just thinking about you and I wanted you to know that,’ ” said Price, now the Cincinnati Reds pitching coach. “And you come away thinking at the time, ‘Wow, what a nice thing for somebody to let you know.’ But now, given what’s happened, you know that it’s a memory you’ll carry for the rest of your life.”
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Mattox held roles at all levels of the team’s scouting ranks, but it was the person that many chose to remember.
“If you were his friend, you were a really important person in his life,” Price said.
Price and Mattox had last seen each other at a California Hall of Fame banquet last November, after Price and other ex-players were inducted.
“When you think about it now, it truly was a blessing that some of us guys were able to all be together that one final time,” Price said.
Former Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, now an assistant with the Reds, said he attended Cincinnati’s annual scouting meetings Monday and many of the scouts there knew Mattox and were “buckled” by the news.
“If you’ve met Frank’s family and been to a game with him, you know how inadequate anything I say about Frank’s passing will be,” Bavasi said. “From a personal, or professional perspective.”
Bavasi said he had spoken about Mattox with Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who worked with Mattox in Colorado before Mattox joined the Mariners.
“He said Frank was a highly thought of scout with them,” Bavasi said. “Frank was sort of like the super utility player who (was) cursed by his own tremendous versatility and skills. He does everything well … so you go ahead and ask him to do it.”
Mattox, a former infielder who made it to Class AAA with Milwaukee, was hired away from the Rockies scouting ranks by former Mariners GM Woody Woodward as a West Coast supervisor in 1995.
“Everybody you talked to gave glowing reports about the individual,” Woodward said Monday from his home in Florida. “Guys in his line of work, they get stuff thrown at them at a moment’s notice and are told to have a suitcase ready. Its not easy, but with Frank, there was never any question he’d do it.”
Woodward promoted Mattox to scouting director in 1998 and he remained in that position — helping draft Matt Thornton and Adam Jones — until Bavasi made him director of player development in 2004. Mattox returned to pro scouting in 2007.
He leaves behind a wife, Sylvia, and three children, Myles, Blake and Marisol. He is also survived by his mother, Vel, and father, Frankie.
“It is difficult to put into words the depth of the Mariners’ sadness upon hearing the news last night,” Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said in a release. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Mariners organization are with the Mattox family as they deal with this tragedy.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.