Remembering the time I took batting practice from Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver
I was saddened at the news of the passing of baseball great Tom Seaver on Wednesday. He was one of the best pitchers ever, and as a fan I enjoyed watching his rare mixture of grace and power that allowed him to win 311 games over a 20-year career that finished in 1986.
He was Tom Terrific of the Amazin’ Mets on the 1969 World Series championship team. And I had the privilege of stepping into the batters’ box against him during a media event in 1989.
“Diamonds are Forever” was a traveling art exhibit celebrating the words and images of baseball that came to the Oakland Museum in 1989, just in time for the Bay Bridge World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. The media was invited for a preview, culminating in getting a chance to bat against Tom Seaver on the neighboring Laney College baseball field.
There seemed to be nearly 100 media types representing TV, radio, and newspapers. I was assigned to the event by the Peninsula Times-Tribune where I was a reporter/columnist at the time.
Seaver was just three years removed from the Major Leagues and still had his boyish looks and easy throwing style. He was throwing batting practice fastballs right down the middle of the plate. Batter after batter took their allotted two swings and went back toward the dugout.
My turn came toward the end of the session. I hit the first pitch to the Laney shortstop. The second pitch toward the second baseman. Those were the first two balls struck all afternoon so I thought, “Good. That was fun,” and started to walk away.
“Stay in there,” Seaver shouted.
He threw again and I hit the ball to right center. He threw harder again. Hit to left center. He said to stay longer. And then he threw a slider. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a fastball on the outside that moved further outside without any warning. I didn’t swing and called “ball.”
“It was a strike,” Seaver said. “Stay in there.”
Another fastball, another hit. To be fair. These weren’t major league fastballs. I would guess low- to mid-70s. No reason for anyone to get hurt.
Then he threw a changeup and I didn’t miss. It traveled to the 340-foot sign in left center and bounced off. I left the box without looking up.
KTVU aired a replay of the hit and subsequent interview on the news at 6:00 and 10:00 pm.
The baseball Seaver graciously signed rests in my living room book case.
I would like to think he had as much fun throwing different pitches as I did stepping in against him. It’s always a game. Even in exhibitions.
R.I.P Tom Terrific.
Tim Goode grew up and lives in Menlo Park. He’s a long time reporter, editor and publisher.