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Welcome Home Thome

August 26, 2011 - Al Stephenson
The Cleveland Indians reacquired Jim Thome from the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named later. Thome will be joining the same organization that he played for in his first 12 seasons in the bigs. He was in the lineup tonight. Personally I couldn't be happier.

The deal is not a blockbuster. I don't think he will be much help to the Tribe at all as he wraps up his storied career. Though he will likely contribute as much as Travis Hafner has this season, I'm not happy because I think he will turn around the fortunes of my baseball team. No, I'm afraid the Indians are not going to head to postseason play this year. We have trotted out a predominately Triple A team all season. Some of the kids played better than we had reason to think they would and in the mediocre Central Division, the playoffs seemed a possiblilty early in the season.

Now with all the injuries (Hafner, Sizemore, Choo, Kipnis, Brantley, Tomlin and Carrasco) even the most diehard Tribe fan has to admit that we are done. If so, why am I so elated that Jim Thome is back home.

Well it's like this. He deserves to finish his illustrious career for the city that loved him. I will admit that he was my favorite player and it was not because he could hit prodigious home runs, which of course he could. It was more because he was just a plain country boy. Nothing flashy on the field, no problems off it. He was just a good guy that loved playing a game in a city that he loved. The feeling was mutual.

The year he became a free agent, I was thinking he was going to resign. Why would he want to leave? He was happy in Cleveland. The Indians offered him a contract that would be in the $70,000,000 range. How much money did a person need? Then the business side of baseball reared its ugly head and Thome left for Philadelphia (and a $100,000,000 deal).

At first I felt betrayed. Then I heard that he was under pressure from the player's union. He was the premier free agent of the year and what he signed for would set the bar for his fellow free agents, not to mention others in years to come. He did what was best for not only himself, but for others as well. I didn't want to see him go, but I understood.

My most indelible memory from all the games I have attended and watched on TV involves Jim Thome. Again it was not one of his monster home runs. On the contrary it was shortly after he had struck out. What kind of memory could that be? Well the camera panned to the dugout as Thome took a seat on the bench. He wasn't throwing batting helmets or trashing water coolers. He simply sat down.

Then someone comes over to him. Standing between Jim Thome's legs was the son of Indians outfielder Ellis Burks. The young fellow must have been about 5 or 6 years old. There he stood with his hands on Thome's shoulders talking away. I have no idea if he was trying to cheer him up, or telling him what he was doing wrong. Thome sat quietly watching the young child's face, listenting intently.

It was a classic moment for me. The big star of the team spending some quality time with a teammate's son. Right in the middle of the ballgame. Right after he had struck out. It signalled to me that everything was right in baseball. Heck, everything in life was all right. It was that kind of moment. I will never forget it.

The view from my seat suggests that bringing Jim Thome back for a six week curtain call is the right thing to do. Welcome home Jim!


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