Mike Adams, a former Cy Young Award winner for the La Jolla High pitching staff in 1990, was reminiscing at his 14th Viking Alumni Game (he comes every other year) on the beautiful, all-turf field (even in the base cutouts except for home plate).
“The Franks [Howard and Gary, the Vikings’ current head coach] had season tickets to the Padres,” the 6-foot, 5-inch former first baseman/pitcher recalled. “We sat behind the photographers’ well near the home dugout. Mr. Frank kibbitzed with the photogs, and they would give him their extra photos.”
Adams, the “Jeff” of the Mutt-and-Jeff pairing with the younger Frank, who’s about 5-foot-6-inches, were enrolled in the same physical education class at Muirlands, then junior high (grades seven, eight and nine until 1991), and the two became fast friends. “We started a fantasy football league,” Frank remembered. “The winner got treated at Corvette Diner, back when it was in Hillcrest. The food tasted much better then. Even the shakes.”
Earl Faison was their PE teacher. “He was an all-star defensive lineman for the Chargers,” recounted Adams.
“I think it was about the only class we had together,” laughed Gary Frank, relishing the memories. “In high school, we especially found out that Mike was a lot smarter. About the only class I got an A in was PE. I won fantasy football in those days, because Mike was occupied with schoolwork. He was busy building a future.”
Now a physician in general practice in Stillwater, Minnesota, outside of St. Paul, Adams, standing near the visiting dugout before the alumni game, related, “My kids [13 and 15 years old] just found my high school yearbook. They were cracking up. That was the ‘mall hair’ era. They found photos with the shorts we wore—which hardly covered the buttocks.”
Catching up with former teammate John Romanowsky, a year ahead of Frank and Adams, batting third and hitting .320, Mike shared, “Last year, our family went on a working vacation to New Zealand. In soccer, the varsity had two practices a week and one game. We told them in the U.S. the teams practice every day. They said, ‘Why would you want to do that?’
“Our kids were way ahead academically. But the kids there are way happier. It kind of wrecked us [attitude-wise].”
“When Mike and I were juniors,” said Frank, “I batted leadoff. Rob Grasso [now assistant athletic director at La Jolla Country Day School] batted second, and hit about .360, and played first base. Romanowsky batted third. No one else batted above .200. We struggled.” Frank, who went on to play second base in college and two years of independent pro ball, hit over .420. Adams hurt his back and didn’t play in 11th grade, returning for a stellar senior season.
Adams walked on as a pitcher at UC Davis, had surgery, and didn’t play further.
“Gary, as a friend, is one of the most reliable people I know,” said Adams. “He’s solid. He’s steady. What you see is what you get.”