CHICAGO (CBS) — Last week, former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was in Cooperstown, N.Y., to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Last night, he coached first base for a 12-inch recreational league softball game in Winnetka.
“The Big Hurt” served up some baseball pointers to the team that won the “Mr. Peanut Power Hitter” contest before the game.
The Chiefs players — who didn’t know Thomas would be there until he showed up — took the pointers to heart, and raced out to an 11-0 lead after two innings, including a grand slam.
Alas, when Thomas had to take a break from his coaching chores to sign autographs, the roof fell in and the rival Hawks beat them 12-11.
Despite the disappointment, the players said they were on Cloud Nine. Some sent wives, girlfriends and children home to get memorabilia, which Thomas gladly autographed with his signature, uniform number 35, and “HOF 2014” — signifying his election to the Hall of Fame. Afterward, they took a picture as a group at home plate with Thomas in the middle.
“The fact that my hero was standing in front of me, I had my ‘oh my goodness’ moment,” said Chiefs right fielder Aaron Polansky, who wrote the essay that won the contest. He said he “babbled on” when given the chance to speak with Thomas, whom he called “the best hitter of the ’90s — anywhere.”
Thomas told them not to get hurt and have fun, but to take the game seriously.
“There’s no shortcut to success. You gotta outwork your opponent,” he said. “I did that. First guy in the locker room, last one to leave.”
After he retired, Thomas started working as a broadcast analyst. He said he won’t be tempted to return to organized baseball as a coach.
“Maybe as a manager, but not as a coach,” he said, saying it would take too much time away from his young children at home.