Everybody’s telling Harry Thomas Jr. stories now. Here’s mine.
Back in 1996, I wrote a column for Washington City Paper about the only goal I ever had: I wanted to hit a home run in softball.
A real home run.
Not an inside-the-park thingee any punch-and-judy swinger will occasionally get out of a good bounce or an inept opponent. I wanted an outside-the-park, over-the-fence, going-going-gone 300-plus-foot job, like only the big boys hit.
At the time, I’d never hit a real one, after more than a decade of playing on the same team. And with each season the warning track was getting further and further from the plate for me.
But, as I wrote, an Oregon company named DeMarini had just introduced a high-tech —-or, to my mind, magic —-bat called the Double-Walled, which, for $300, made the longball seem possible even for slugs like me. My buddy Gary, a friend since high school who I’d been playing in leagues with for years and who was similarly sick of living a homerless existence, shelled out the bucks.
The advent of the DeMarini, I wrote, kept hope alive that I wouldn’t go to the grave having never touched ’em all.
I got a call at home shortly after the story was published. The guy on the other end said his name was Harry Thomas Jr., and that, yeah, his dad was the D.C. Councilman. Thomas said he’d read my story and was just the guy to help. He said he was a slo-pitch batting coach.
Until that call, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a hitting coach for slo-pitch softball.
With just a few trips to the batting cage with him, he said, he was sure he could teach me how to hit a tater, just as he’d taught a lot of other guys who shared my dream.
Thomas was very nice, and really seemed to care about me leaving the yard. He said he’d do it all gratis, too. All I had to do was show up.
I thanked him but said no thanks, using the journalistic ethics of taking a freebie as my crutch. Really, I was just too ashamed at my age to get professional coaching to play a beer-league game.
Besides, by then the DeMarini had arrived in our clubhouse.
I’ve thought about that call from Thomas every now and then over the years and giggled at how earnest he was and how much he wanted to help.
Especially when I read that the guy who wanted to teach an old fart like me how to hit a softball pro bono had allegedly filched $300,000 that was supposed to be used TO TEACH KIDS HOW TO HIT A BASEBALL!!!!
I can only hope that all the kids who also never got hitting lessons from Thomas had access, as I did, to a $300 magic bat.
I retired from slo-pitch around 2003 after hitting my second homer. I can die happy.
But what about the children?