In order to appreciate the whole story and to set the stage, it is necessary to begin by recalling a few key moments prior to our 1977 graduation. Winning the 1976 State Championship with a great group of guys in our junior year helped bring some professional baseball scouts around our senior year.

As a senior at LHS, I had a very nice year statistically, followed by a successful try out with Ben Marmo, a Philadelphia Phillies scout. I was then named to the 1st Team All-State Baseball team and was notified that I was drafted in the 18th round by the Phillies. But at that moment, late in spring, I had no significant college scholarship offers, so when the Phillies offered a moderate signing bonus immediately after the draft, I decided to accept it. That is how at age 17, my scrawny 165-pound body entered the world of professional baseball. Little did I know that college offers would suddenly arrive immediately after the Phillies signing, but at that point it was too late – I was headed to Auburn, New York for rookie ball training camp.

It kind of started off as a nightmare. I was in “Timbuktu” with a bunch of guys, not only from around the US, but around the world (i.e. Puerto Rico, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama) speaking a lot of their languages and me not understanding too much. It was a “boot” camp for baseball trying to get the recently drafted players into shape before joining the rookie ball team. The locker room of 50 sweaty ballplayers, and only being provided Gatorade, saltine crackers and some soup for the entire day was somewhat unbearable. Nevertheless, I made it through, probably dropping another five pounds, and was off to “hickville” Pulaski, Virginia. My first manager was Granny Hamner from the Phillies “Whiz Kids”. Rookie ball saw long bus ride road trips, low class motels, small crowds, no restaurants to eat at after the games, extremely low pay, and living with five other guys in the basement of a house not far from the ball field. I survived my 1st year, but got Mono during August, right around my 18th birthday and came home to Livingston.

Highlights of the next 10 baseball seasons were as follows:

• Season 2 (low A ball): Spartanburg South Carolina where I started shortstop but after two weeks, blew out my rotator cuff due to excessive throwing which was much more than I was accustomed. It was somewhat a blessing in disguise because, although I missed practically the entire season, it forced me to really exercise and build my entire body up, using Nautilus equipment and gaining 30 pounds over the offseason, mostly muscle.

• Season 3 (high A ball); Pennisula Pilots, Newport News, Va. I came one point from winning the Gold Bat (meaning the highest batting average in the league for the season) with a .306 average. It was a very good year making the All-Star team, and playing with players such as Bob Dernier, and Greg Walker.

• Seasons 4 & 5 (AA, Reading Pa.): After a successful year in high A, I had a below average year in AA so I returned to AA the following year (Season 5) with a little more success. Although still long bus trips, as you move up in the organization, the hotel accommodations also improve, along with a little bit more pay. In 1980, my first AA year, I played mostly 1st base and my throwing partner on a daily basis was Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. George Bell was also playing outfield on that team. A little interesting sidebar, I ran into our very own Jay Greenspan in the Buffalo Hilton while he was in his own “acting minor leagues”. We were on a road trip playing at the very stadium “The Natural” with Robert Redford was filmed. In Season 5, Julio Franco, who had a great career with the Cleveland Indians was throwing over to me at 1st base from shortstop.

• The following year (Season 6, Oklahoma City), I was moved up to AAA, one step from the majors, but I was used all over the field, including outfield for the first time in my career, and somewhat struggled as I was uncomfortable in those positions. The Phillies released me the following spring training, but I immediately signed with the Chicago Cubs organization where I resumed my career over the next four seasons, having some of my best baseball seasons statistically and the most fun under new managers. With the Phillies, I had the same manager five straight seasons in a row.

• I played Season 7 in Midland Texas AA, having the best year of my career. After that season, I had an unforgettable season in the Mexican League, playing out of our hometown Culiacan, Mexico. I was the only one of three original Americans on my team that stayed the entire season – the others left early mainly due to food/water and other unfavorable conditions.

• Seasons 8-10 were all in Des Moines, Iowa, AAA. That was the closest I ever came to being called up to the major leagues, as my last season with Iowa, I was hitting around .340 midseason, BUT the call up never happened. As I was a free agent after the 1986 season, and with the Cubs not putting me on the major league 40-man roster, I signed with the Mets AAA team in Tidewater, Virginia Beach. There, I won my FIRST minor league championship, but saw the writing on the wall, as I was used mostly as a utility player and minor league player of the year, and future major league player Greg Jeffries was coming up to AAA the following year at my main position.

• After that 1987 season, I opted to retire. Some key notable teammates during years 7-11 were: Billy Hatcher, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Joe Carter, Vince Coleman, and Shawon Dunston.

I met my first wife Sue, in Oklahoma City during a road trip in 1985 while playing for the Iowa Cubs, and later got married and was married to her for 10 years and had two wonderful children. My son Kevin is now 35 and has been married for one year to Emily, and my daughter Michelle, 32, is married to Jon for four years. I have one stepdaughter Jessica who’s been married seven years, and she and Jay had a son Jason, so I’m proud to be Grandpa for a little over one year old. He is the cutest and such a blessing to our family and JUST started walking.

Post “Baseball Days”

After living up in the Lodi area and working for my older brother Rich’s gourmet food product distributing business for two years, I decided my future would be best if I went to college. Although my minor league baseball experience was tremendous, fun, and challenging, I had not experienced the “normal” college life, frat parties, concerts, summers, etc. like many of you had. So, with a two-year-old son and wife, I chose to move into my parent’s home in Bamber Lake area of Lacey Township while I attended Ocean County College. I am so grateful for the sacrifice my parents made to give me the opportunity to pursue a college education. During that time, I was fortunate enough to serve as Assistant Coach for the OCC baseball team on its way to its first Regional Championship. While I was earning credits from OCC, I was also earning credits through correspondence courses throughout the US and after four years, obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with an accounting major, from Thomas Edison State College.

Soon after, I interned with a CPA firm specializing not only in taxes, but governmental auditing. While working for this Toms River firm, I studied and passed both the CPA and RMA (registered municipal accountant) exams. Both were probably the toughest tests I had taken in my life. Governmental accounting and auditing were the areas that I remained in for the next 25 years reaching Senior Manager, working for three firms, but mostly traveling to and from an Ocean City New Jersey based firm and their clients. Feeling a little worn-out from auditing, and not being a firm Partner, I migrated over to “the other side” and took a Chief Financial Officer job in Barnegat Township, where I remain today. Although very enjoyable and only 15 minutes away from my home in Forked River, I CAN’T WAIT TO RETIRE IN TWO MORE YEARS!!!!

God blessed me with a wonderful wife Cathy, whom I met 21 years ago in 2003 and we’re going on 18 years of marriage in Sept. We actually met in church, where I’ve been leading the praise and worship service for over 20 years, which repertoire includes a few original songs I wrote over the years. I’ll never forget a missions trip to the heart of Nicaragua back in 2002 and seeing the conditions some people live in and what little food and clothing they have. It really put into perspective how truly blessed we are here in America, and to not take anything for granted. I mean walking around with hardly any clothes (if any) and craving for bags of rice we were giving out, just broke everyone’s heart. It’s something to pray about. I currently serve also as deacon, and if you’re curious, our services are recorded each Sunday at 10:30 am (see link below). Since our high school Spectrum days, and other than playing and singing in my apartment or some bus trips throughout the minors, that is pretty much the extent of my continued singing and guitar playing. Of course, I loved getting together with the gang for our 40th Class reunion in 2017.

My wife and I have had some memorable vacations to Aruba, Sonoma County California wine country, other Caribbean islands, and most recently to Puerto Rico. We love the sunshine, beaches and lounging at our backyard pool in Forked River, NJ. Also, still playing softball and try to get out golfing on a weekly basis for exercise.

In closing, it’s been wonderful reading previous spotlight articles and seeing how well so many of you are doing and honored to share my years after LHS with all of you. Remember all the good times, cherish your loved ones, tell them each and every day how much you love them, and I pray for all of you for good health and happiness. I’ll leave you with my favorite Bible verse. Romans 12:12. “Joyful in Hope, Patient in Affliction, Faithful in prayer”. God Bless.

For more information on the Barnegat Bay Assembly of God, click this link Barnegat Bay
To see Tom and the rest of the 40th Reunion Band, click this link LHS 40th Reunion 2017 Band Performance