An Arizona high school sports community is shaken by the death of an assistant football and baseball coach.
Tolleson High School baseball on Sunday posted on Twitter that Ash Friederich, 40, died Saturday night from COVID-19 complications. The Tolleson Union High School District sent a statement to school families from superintendent Nora Gutierrez confirming Friederich’s death, describing it as “unexpected and heartbreaking..”
Friederich was a former Arizona Republic freelance sports reporter, covering high school football games. He also contributed to the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen in the 2010s.
He graduated from Tucson High in 1998, and got two Bachelor of Arts degrees in creative writing and journalism from the University of Arizona.
He taught English at Tolleson High School since 2016.
“Ash was the guy that always had a smile on his face,” Tolleson head baseball coach Scott Richardson said. “He played the role of good cop to a T, always there to add an encouraging word or pick up a player after a bad game.”
It’s with a heavy heart that I am writing this morning. One of our baseball coaches, Ash Friederich, passed away last night due to complications caused by Covid 19. Our prayers go out to his wife Leeann and their family at this most difficult time.
— Tolleson Baseball (@TtownBsball) November 1, 2020
Lopez said that Friderich got sick three weeks ago with flu-like symptoms. He said Friederich was tested twice for COVID-19 but both came back negative. He said they were false negatives.
“He progressively got worse,” Lopez said. “We had already quarantined. Then, after a few days, he was feeling better.
“He had a high respiratory infection on Friday and was admitted (to the hospital).”
Lopez said that Friederich’s oxygen levels had gotten so low that he was put on a ventilator.
“He was my freshman coach,” Lopez said. “He loved sports. He loved the Chicago Cubs. He loved the (Arizona) Wildcats. He was so happy (my son) Roy chose to play at UofA. He was a happy-go-lucky man. He was the butt of jokes. Just a great sport.”
Richardson said Friederich was the newest member of his coaching staff.
“What he may have lacked in baseball coaching experience, he made up for in being a good teacher of the game and building relationships with our kids,” Richardson said. “Our goal with Ash this spring was to teach him how to properly drag an infield. He was a train wreck any time he pulled a drag around the infield, dragging the grass, leaving tire tracks on the dirt. It really was comical to watch.
“He will be dearly missed by our coaches, players the TUHS staff and the student body.”
The Tolleson Union High School District said social workers and counselors would be available to receive calls from students or staff set up virtual meetings to discuss their feelings about the loss of Friederich, but reminded students they are not able to congregate at the school.
“Tolleson Union High School District will continue to focus on keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible. COVID-19 is in our community and does not discriminate,” Guiterrez said. “It is important that we all continue to follow the health and safety protocols to keep ourselves and our families, friends, teachers and TUHSD staff safe. We have been diligently following the health and safety protocols since March; let’s not stop now. I want you all to know that we are #TollesonStrong and that together we will get through this.”
Friederich was hired in 2016 and was an English teacher. He was a sponsor for yearbook. In 2017, he was an assistant coach for girls softball and girls basketball. In 2018, he served as a JV coach for girls softball. In 2019, he was an assistant coach for freshman basebal, and this year, joined the football program as a coach, the statement said.
On Friday, the Tolleson Union High School District put an end to any hope of having a season because of rising COVID-19 metrics putting the area in a substantial risk red.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona community shaken by death of high school assistant coach from COVID-19 complications