Jim Tuttle loved his Fleming Island baseball

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 3/23/22

FLEMING ISLAND - Amongst a virtual Who’s Who of former Fleming Island High School baseball greats past and present, including coaches, Fleming Island baseball coach Jim Tuttle’s family got a …

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Jim Tuttle loved his Fleming Island baseball

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND - Amongst a virtual Who’s Who of former Fleming Island High School baseball greats past and present, including coaches, Fleming Island baseball coach Jim Tuttle’s family got a final farewell from the baseball family of the Golden Eagles at Monday’s game against Bartram Trail.

“He just loved being in the dugout with these boys,” said Martha Tuttle, his wife of 37 years who was joined by sons Austin and Bryson on the field as the 2022 Golden Eagles presented the Tuttle family with personalized Jim Tuttle bases around the infield and a emblazoned plaque for Jim Tuttle’s nearly two decades of dedication to Fleming Island baseball.

Tuttle was diagnosed with cancer in his kidney in October and surpisingly passed away just a month later to the shock of his immediate friend.

“He thought he had kidney stone, but it was worse and fast,” said Martha Tuttle. “He was 60.”

Joining the Tuttle ceremonies were former coaches Don Suriano and Marty Lanoux who built the Fleming Island program into the state rankings from the 2005 era.

“He’s been around for everything here,” said Lanoux. “The family part of the program came from Jim influence. He was good at teaching them to see beyond themselves.”

Also on the field, present head coach Grant Bigilin, a former Fleming Island High standout infielder, has had a full circle of sorts with being named as head coach a few years ago.

“He was here as a coach when coach Bigilin was playing, then was here when Grant started coaching, then got to be on the field with Grant as coach, Jim as a coach and son Austin as a field umpire,” said Martha Tuttle. “He was very proud of last year’s team that went to the state championship.”

Tuttle, who never played high school baseball because of work as the fourth boy in the family, started his coaching when his two boys arrived. Tuttle’s dad played semi-pro ball in the Sanford area years ago.

“Grant and Austin played infield together here,” said Martha Tuttle. “There was some chatter in the other dugout when they were all three on the field as coach and umpire but I know Jim was more proud than anything to have it happen for a couple games.”

Martha Tuttle remembered Jim came home with a big smile after Bryson smashed a grand slam against Baker County before playing some college ball at St. Johns River State College. Bryson Tuttle went to Lake Sumter then played some club ball at University of Central Florida.

Austin hit a homer at Fleming Island during a game that Jim liked as Austin was not noted as a big power hitter.

“He really liked just being at the game and watching them play,” said Martha Tuttle. “We had very little time without baseball or softball in our 37 years, but I was a good coach from the stands. Nothing I ever suggested was used on the field.”

Don Suriano was a mentor for Tuttle and, according to Martha Tuttle, Jim always loved watching and learning from Suriano.

Tuttle, who worked in real estate, did have a brother Allen who coached at Lake Mary High School for a long while creating a similarly strong program down there. Allen Tuttle spent 32 years at Lake Mary and also got recognized by his peers with the naming of the Allen Tuttle Field at Lake Mary in 2002.

Martha Tuttle noted that Jim Tuttle never really strived to be a head coach somewhere.

“He did win a baseball commissioner position when we were in Pensacola and they told him if he didn’t like the way it was run, he should run,” said Martha Tuttle. “He ran and won and ran the league for a long time.”

Martha Tuttle said her husband had nearly 300 people visit his funeral services.

“He was friendly to everyone he knew,” said Martha Tuttle.

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