Tampa Florida Friday August 31st, 2019: Weather forecast: Monster hurricane headed my way. So why am I down here? One reason is to cover the Tampa Bay Rays vs the Cleveland Indians this weekend at beautiful Tropicana Field in St Petersburg. Rays? Cleveland? Tropicana field with a crowd of about 6,000? What the heck does that have to do with the Yankees or Mets?
Well, it has nothing to do with them. I really came down here to the swamp, to retrace my footsteps with my baseball scouting mentor and all things relating to baseball adviser Tom “Tbone” Giordano. Tom passed away this past spring at the age of 93 with another contract stuck in his pocket to be a major baseball mind and in a advisory role to the GM of the Atlanta Braves. It would have been his 72nd consecutive year in professional baseball.
As Casey Stengel would say, “You can look it up.”
Tom and I would spend hours, days, weeks, and months traveling all over the country and sometimes abroad, looking for players that could help our team. Even to Italy and Costa Rica if you can believe that.
But this road trip is not just about baseball. It is about my lifetime adventure with this iconic baseball figure. His accomplishments are well documented yet who he was as a person are only known by the people he came in contact with every day. He remembered names, their kids names and things that were going on in their lives. I’m not just talking about baseball people and the media, it included everyone he met.
From food service people, guards and hotel employees to waiters, parking attendants and people in the grocery stores, how he remembered all those names and what was going on in their lives is quite amazing.
As I walked through the tunnels of various ballparks with Tbone, I would usually be a step or two ahead of him and I could see someone we were approaching break out in a big smile. I knew it was 10% for me and 90% for Tbone as he was about to say hello to them. He always greeted people with a big smile and a challenge to give him a real good hand shake.
But it better not be a “dead fish” hand shake. He would let you know about that.
I wanted to eat in the same restaurants we frequented, stay in the same hotels, travel on the same airlines and sit in the same seats at the ballparks we went to, making sure that his seat remained empty. But basically visit with old friends and talk about Tbone. And that is what this trip is a part of.
My good friend Joe “Rib Eye” Ferrara in Florida who also worked with Tbone for the Braves, accompanied me here in Tampa. Joe always says, “If Tom is Tbone than I am Rib Eye.” Together we shared many stories of our times with Tom. Some good ones and one or two not so good.
All of them made us laugh and reminded us of just how fortunate we were to have had him in our lives.
I spent a number of years with Tom. Filled with the most amazing people, places and things. Major league stadiums, Minor league parks, spring training, workouts with prospects, instructional leagues, and on and on it went. Being followed by a film crew for the better part of two years as they pieced together Tom’s life has become almost an out of body experience as I watched myself on the screen.
Meeting and becoming friends with everyone from the security guards at big league parks to Hall of Fame players as we bounced around the country Is something I will always cherish.
By physically re visiting the places we were at together and meeting up with the people who were a part of my journey with Tom, it continues to be a good look back at this wild ride. He brought me along with him and allowed me to think of myself as just an ordinary person who has done some not so ordinary things in his life.