Compiled by Paula Kowalewski Sullivan from interviews and various sources*
Some of Wrentham’s Notables are quite historic but for this article, we are coming into the current times! We feature a father-son story that has Red Sox connections as well as King Philip High connections.
Jeffrey Hunter Plympton Sr. was born in Framingham November 1965 to Bay State natives Marcia and Warren Plympton. His mother was from Southborough, and the couple lived in Framingham for a while after marriage. Later they moved, and Jeff and his older brother Steve grew up in Plainville.
Jeff graduated from King Philip High School in Wrentham and as readers know, the school draws students from Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham. Jeff played basketball and soccer, as well as baseball, at King Philip. Though he’d never played soccer before his freshman year, he was chosen MVP of the team in his junior year. Soccer did result in a knee surgery, and basketball earned him a broken thumb. Baseball left him relatively unscathed in his high school years.
In the summer of 1983, Plympton played in the highly competitive Boston Park League for the Conley Club team. Jeff had a 23-3 pitching record for King Philip under coach Gary Lombard. As a youth, Plympton often took in games at Fenway Park, perhaps a dozen games a year. Drafted in the 10th round of the 1987 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Red Sox after his junior season at the University of Maine, Plympton pitched in the New England Collegiate All-Star Game at Fenway Park, the College World Series, and for the bronze medalist US National Team in the 1986 World Championships.
A member of the Sox’s farm system for most of his career, Plympton was fortunate to spend some time during the 1991 season as part of the major league team. On June 15 of that year, Jeff took the mound at Fenway to pitch the top of the ninth inning. His major league debut was impressive – a scoreless inning, leaving two runners stranded in a 13-3 Red Sox win over the Angels. Despite only getting four appearances for the hometown team, Plympton’s ERA was perfect at 0.00 during his short time with the team.
The rest of Plympton’s career was spent playing for the Red Sox’s AAA affiliate in Pawtucket until his retirement in 1993. Nineteen years later, Plympton was invited back to wear a Red Sox uniform one more time as part of the team’s celebration of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary in April 2012. Once again Plympton had a chance to walk to the mound of a Fenway Park that had changed quite a bit since his appearances in the early 1990s.
In 2004, Wrentham hired Plympton as the town’s first full-time recreation director. His task at the time was to raise the funds to build a new athletic complex, which we now know as the 80-acre William Rice Recreation Complex. The work became Plympton’s life calling, and he is still at it more than 22 years later. The facility boasts a full-size baseball field, softball fields, multi-purpose fields, volleyball courts, walking & jogging trails, as well as the main office for the Wrentham Recreation Dept.
Plympton had various jobs through his career (Boston College pitching coach, head baseball coach at Dean College, sales for a Boston-based commercial moving company); but he never stopped working with baseball. While still playing, he had become co-owner of Baseball Coaches Academy in Ashland, a position he held from 1991 until 2009. The following year, he co-founded CRUSH Baseball in Wrentham, a travel team with the NB Select League which has ~150 children enrolled each year. He is still active with that venture in 2022. “I’ve been doing that since 2010,” he said. “We’re strong. We have 12 teams, which is good, ages 10 to 17. It keeps me busy.”
He joined the Wrentham 350th Committee for Wrentham Day on September 10.
And speaking of developing talent, Jeff Sr. was there for his own son Jeff Plympton Jr.
A former criminal justice major at Plymouth State, NH, Plympton has a master’s degree in education from Fitchburg State. He became a health and physical education instructor at King Philip High School, and eventually a varsity baseball coach as well.
According to an article in Norfolk & Wrentham Town News by Ken Hamwey that covered Jeff Jr’s eventual debut as KP varsity coach after 21 months due to COVID, “Acutely aware that athletics can teach life lessons, he knows his players learned a valuable lesson after hearing about the cancellation of last spring’s season. That was a lesson in overcoming adversity. ‘Our kids learned that they shouldn’t take things for granted,’ Plympton said. ‘It’s all about making the most of what you have. Other life lessons that sports teach are patience, leadership, teamwork, work ethic and a positive attitude.’’’
Plympton Jr. was glad to finally get the season underway and to get his debut in his rear-view mirror. “It’s good our first game is out of the way,’’ he said. “I was hired in August 2019, but my debut was delayed almost two years because of the coronavirus. The delay was difficult, but it was even more difficult for the players who’ve gone almost two years without a varsity game.’’
The Sun Chronicle also has covered Jeff Jr’s roles: “Plympton’s baseball memories are full of King Philip lore and Boston Red Sox experiences. Plympton actually played some soccer and basketball growing up, but he was captivated by the mystique of being at the baseball field every day.”
“I have many memories of going to Fenway Park, walking up that middle ramp and looking out at the Green Monster,” Jeff Jr. said in the article. “To this day, when I go to Fenway, you walk in behind home plate, I always walk up that one alley way. It kind of makes you feel like a little kid again. I always want to have that experience. And I remember, too, when my dad would to go to Fenway and be in Autograph Alley, signing autographs for fans.”
During his adolescent years, Jeff Jr’s favorite Red Sox players were Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra. As he developed into an infielder, then a second baseman, his attention naturally gravitated to Dustin Pedroia. “Baseball has always been my favorite sport,” Plympton said. “Every time I got home from school, even back in elementary school, I’d do my homework and then go off with my dad to his baseball facility (in Ashland) and enjoy every minute of it.
Calling his father his role model for his support and encouragement, Jeff Jr. says his dad is the person he always talks to about baseball. “My dad was always a fundamentals guy. Even with Coach Moran — just keep everything basic and simple as possible. You can go anywhere (baseball academies and camps), and they can tell you this and that about pitching. With my dad, it was just keep it basic and smooth. There are strained arms everywhere, so I take that into my coaching philosophy.”
The younger Plympton started for two seasons at second base at KP, hitting .330 as a senior and committing just three errors during his junior and senior years. He did not play at Plymouth State and turned his attention to coaching. “To say the least, we are very proud of his baseball IQ and the level of maturity that he has to become the varsity coach at KP,” Jeff Sr. said. “The KP baseball program has meant a lot to my family through the years.”
When the elder Plympton orchestrated the CRUSH Baseball Program, the younger Plympton would serve as a coach for teams of 10-year, 12-year and 14-year-olds. Jeff Sr. also conducts a winter pitching clinic at the Roderick School in Wrentham, in conjunction with the CRUSH program.
“Becoming the coach at KP has kind of been a natural progression for me,” said Jeff Jr., a one-time bat boy for the KP Warriors. “I’ve always been around baseball teams growing up, watching and learning. Coaching the younger kids, the 10- and 12-year-olds, it’s fun to really teach them the game. With the older kids, you’re still teaching them the game.”
One of the major differences between his early years of baseball development and now is the extensive use of video teaching, game analytics and data-based strategy. Today, athletics are structured. There is weight training and physical conditioning. “Back then we really didn’t do game film at all, it was just practice” Plympton said. “I’ve learned a lot about coaching through the years,” he said. “Coaching is teaching a specific sport. I’ve kind of learned through teaching (at KP) and coaching how to get the message across.”
When he began coaching in 2021, Jeff Jr.’s goals for KP focused on both short-term objectives and long-range aspirations. “We wanted to build a healthy culture and bring winning back to the program,’’ he emphasized.
His focus over time has been to “qualify for the Sectional tourney and advance as deep as possible in the playoffs.” When we spoke with him in September 2022, he told us his first year resulted in making it to the MIAA State Championship playoffs and that he hoped to do well again this year. He has a group of incoming seniors and juniors that he worked with last year. “The kids put in a lot of hard work, and we love when people come to watch – local sports provide a lot of pride.”
* Sources include an interviews with Jeff Plympton Sr., Jeff Plympton Jr., and articles from The Boston Globe (April 21, 2016), The Sun Chronicle (various dates), Bill Nowlin’s piece for the Society for American Baseball Research, Norfolk Wrentham News.com, and Wrentham Patch.