"When I came for a visit, the first thing Coach said to me was, 'It's my way or the highway,' " says senior shortstop Jim Halloran, who had a reputation in high school for his hot temper. "He helped me decide to shut up and play baseball."
Second baseman Adrian Clark is more blunt about his coach. "Sometimes I think he hates us, but on the inside we know he's got to be human," he says. Clark and Halloran both do polished Vieira impressions. And every so often Vieira helps out, proving that he is, indeed, human.
"One game last year, Clark steps up to the plate trying to break the Division II record for most consecutive hits in a game, which was seven in seven at bats," says assistant coach John Anquillare. "So Coach V yells out, 'C'mon 32, let's go!' Clark's number is 8, so I ask him why he's yelling for 32. He says, 'That's my record. I'm rooting for the pitcher.' "
For those players who survive Vieira's boot camp, there are rewards. Through his contacts, Vieira has wangled pro contracts for 49 of his former players.
"I'll never forget the first time V saw me throw," says 1987 Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian of the San Francisco Giants, who played for Vieira in 1978. "He said, 'Kid, I'm going to make a pro out of you.' "
As a tribute to their coach, 70 former Chargers attended the 1986 ceremony commemorating Vieira's 25 years at UNH, at which the school announced that the baseball diamond on campus would be renamed Frank Vieira Field. "Just because this is my field doesn't mean we'll win here," he says. "If we got spotted two runs because this was my field, then it would mean something, but we still start every season 0-0."
Wins are still Vieira's grail. Last season he cracked the 700-win mark, more victories than all but two coaches in Division II history. But despite his many trips to the championship series, he doesn't have the biggest win yet. In last year's final, against Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, New Haven was tied 5-5 after seven innings, but the Chargers' ace, Steve DiBartolomeo, was tagged for four runs in the top of the eighth and the day was lost.
"The man deserves a championship; he's done everything for the game," Halloran says. "We'd really like to win it for him this year."
And what would happen next?
"There'd be one hell of a party," says Halloran.