I love baseball. I watched with some interest as Jim Thome was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY last weekend. Thome’s reputation: An all-time great power hitter with a heart of gold. I grew up on the Cleveland Indians – going to games with my dad and grandpa at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. When I went to college in Cincinnati, my affections gravitated to the Cincinnati Reds. When you are in college in the days of the “Big Red Machine” it is hard not to become Reds fan. (I never root against the Indians.) If I were a big league general manager, I would want a left-handed power hitting first baseman – and I would sign a guy like Jim Thome in a heartbeat.
Thome grew up in Peoria, Illinois and dreamed of being a major leaguer. He spent his childhood hitting rocks in the gravel driveway until the neighbors put a stop to it. He imagined he was playing with the likes of Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, etc. Six hundred and twelve home runs later, Thome joins them in the Hall of Fame.
Thome was a 13th round draft pick from Central Illinois University – an inauspicious start to a big league career. Today, he is the best power hitter to ever put on a Cleveland Indians uniform.
Two important things Jim Thome said in his speech at the induction:
1. Family is everything. They were all there (Dad, wife, children, and siblings). His daughter sang The National Anthem. He referenced his mom, Joyce, who died in 2005. “Mom, I can only hope you’re proud of the man I have become. You can take a lot of credit for it.”
2. Then he shared a bit of wisdom: “My experience has taught me if you try to conduct yourself with authenticity and honesty, the end result is one of the most natural highs any human being can have. I am so honored to be part of something so special, something greater than the individual.”
I hope that whenever we reach whatever pinnacle in our lives we remain as well-grounded as Jim Thome. Family, humility, authenticity and keeping life in perspective is vitally important.