This is a guest post from Joe Martin, a journalism student at Arizona State University. Joe did some Spring Training coverage for our site this last season. During his time at Hohokam Park, Joe had the opportunity to meet Tom Pratt. Pratt was a pitching coach in the Cubs organization from 2000-2012. Word spread yesterday that Pratt had lost his battle with cancer. In this post, Joe recalls his interactions with Tom Pratt.
I only met Tom Pratt a handful of times at Spring Training this year. A 20 year old college kid that somehow convinced the guys running this site to let me intern for them as a spring training reporter. I was standing behind one of the fields, watching drills and trying to figure out what I was going to talk about that day on the podcast.
I looked over and saw this coach standing against the concession stand talking to this old couple. He had dark sunglasses and a “goofy” batting helmet (his words not mine) on. But what I remember most was the ear-to-ear grin he was wearing the entire time he spoke to the two snowbirds in town to catch the Cubs at Spring Training. I got the courage to walk over and talk to him, introduced myself and immediately got one of the warmest friendliest handshakes I’d ever received.
We began to talk and somehow led to his “goofy” helmet that he wore, he said it was to cover up the stitches. I gave him a quizzical look and he showed me the stitches in his dark curly hair. Doctors want me to protect it, he said.
As we continued to talk, and he told me he had been out of the hospital for only four days, I became more and more amazed by the man standing in front of me. Brain cancer, something most people would be bed ridden with for months, and here Tom Pratt was, four days after a major surgery and only 30 hours of post-op, and he was here watching practice. I stood there speechless.
“How are you enjoying practice today?” Pratt asked me.
There are a lot of times when you can’t explain what you’re feeling, and words don’t do it justice. But the amount of happiness Tom had for baseball, his family and life in general was something that no disease could take from him.
Again, I’m not a good friend of Tom Pratt by any means. But watching him for the next couple weeks, and the way he handled people, always stopping to say hi, giving the old women hugs as he walked away, throwing the kids baseballs, you could tell there was something genuine there.
Players at every level of the organization would come by and shake his hand and give him a “what’s up coach,” and “how ya feelin’ coach,” and Tom just smiled. To Tom, he wasn’t about sitting in bed and ‘motivating’ the players that way, he wanted to be back on the field.
“Whatever I can do to help anyone else, I’m there man.”