So, who is this Tommy Hottovy guy that everyone around the office keeps talking about? This is a question I heard from one of our newer employees the other day, and it is a fair question. He has a jersey hanging on our wall, a big newspaper article about him; he’s all over ProVision and in the Rundown. Is he famous? The rest of the world may not know who Tommy is yet, but for this small little northland community and our family here at JustBats.com, he is our favorite son. In this article I am going to share with you who Tommy is and how he came to be our favorite son.
In 1997 I started helping as an assistant to Coach Steve McDaniel at Park Hill High School with the baseball program. 1997 was the freshman year for young Tommy Hottovy. Most Freshman do not make the varsity team, as a matter of fact Tommy was only the 2nd freshman ever to make the varsity team in the 20+ years that Coach Mac was at Park Hill, so right away we knew that he was going to be special. Tommy was not only a good pitcher, but he could hit and play the outfield, he was the whole package. Tommy had guts like no other kid I had seen, he would go out in any situation and he would be as steady as can be. In a word, Tommy was, and is a WINNER. He was not only a good athlete in baseball, but he was also the varsity quarterback for the football team, and captain of the basketball team. Tommy went on to win 11 varsity letters in his career at Park Hill and Park Hill South. He was always in the spotlight, but he never let it go to his head. He was as humble a kid as you could ever meet. Everything was about his team, and not his individual effort. Tommy was in the newspaper, Metro Sports did several features on him, he was interviewed after every single game he played, and never once did he ever make it more about him than his team. That is how a legend is built. That’s how a “hero” is remembered.
Tommy had several scholarship offers to go play football, basketball, and baseball, but his true passion was baseball and so he decided to go to Wichita State and play baseball. He had a nice college career, pitching all 4 years at Wichita State, some as a starter, but mostly as a relief pitcher. Tommy would be the first to tell you that the greatest thing that ever happened to him at Wichita State was not baseball related; instead it was when he met his wife Andrea. Andrea is also a wonderful person and great wife for Tommy. She supports him in everything he does. She is a true blessing to him. After the last game he pitched at Wichita State, we were not sure what the future might hold for Tommy. We were all pretty sure he would get drafted, but we didn’t know for sure. On June 4th 2004 I was sitting at my desk here at JustBats.com listening to the draft on my computer and in the 4th round of that draft the Boston Red Sox selected Tommy and thus his professional baseball career began.
Minor League baseball is no picnic for sure. The stories that Tommy tells about the bus rides, bad food, rundown ballparks, bad hotels, not to mention being away from all of your family for 7-9 months a year is pretty grueling. Tommy went through a lot in his minor league career. He had to have Tommy John surgery (elbow surgery) and the road was long, but Tommy never wavered. Tommy had a dream to be a Major League Baseball player and he was not going to stop until someone told him not to come back anymore. Year after year for 7 long years Tommy would go do his job and then come home not knowing what the future might bring. He would work here at JustBats.com in his off season on special projects for Scott (ex. Tommy is responsible for our Glove Care Kits being developed) so he could earn money just to keep his head above water. Tommy has never been afraid of the work. As some of you have seen, Tommy was in here working out, running and throwing every single day, because he had and still has a dream.
On June 2, 2011 Ryan Weedin, Kyle Thomason, Jim Legg and myself were out with Charity our Miken Sales Representative at a Royals game and after the game was over we stopped by to have a drink at a bar in Zona Rosa. It was a nice night, so we were sitting out on the patio and my phone rang, it was Tommy. He asked me “what are you doing this weekend?” I said well we have the JustBats.com June Jam baseball tournament this weekend, so I will be there most of the weekend, why? He replied “ hmmmm I was hoping you could come to Boston this weekend because they just called me up.” I almost dropped the phone and I know I screamed a shout of joy! Finally after all the struggles, all the hard work, Tommy was going to get his chance to be a MLB player. I called Scott right away and he made travel arrangements for me to get on a flight 7 hours later headed for Boston. It so happened that I flew out on the same flight with Tommy’s Mom (who is also a former JustBats.com employee) and his Brother. The pilot even made an announcement about Tommy on the flight and the whole plane cheered! We arrived in Boston and headed for the ballpark. There Tommy was, wearing #68 on his back and standing next to Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, it was unreal! The game started, and I really don’t remember much about the game itself, all I remember is that in the 7th inning there was a side arm lefty throwing down in the bullpen and my heart started to race. Was this it, were they going to bring him into the game? The Red sox found themselves in a little bit of jam and they needed an out. David DeJesus (former Royal) was getting ready to bat and out stepped Terry Francona (Red Sox Manager) and waved to the bullpen for the lefty. The bullpen gate swung open and out came #68. As I stood there with tears of joy running down my face, I could not believe that my buddy was getting ready to pitch in Fenway Park to a Major League batter in a Major League game! David Dejesus stepped in and I really don’t remember how many pitches it took, all I remember is that ball getting hit very weakly to the second baseman and the out being recorded at first base. There it was, no matter what happened from that point, Tommy was a Major League pitcher with a recorded Major League out. Over the next two days Tommy got called in to both of those games as well and I was lucky enough to see it. In all 3 appearances Tommy faced David DeJesus and in all 3 appearances Tommy got him out. In total, he made eight appearances for Boston, allowing three earned runs in just four total innings of work before he was designated for assignment on July 16th. He pitched the rest of the year in the Boston minor league system and this past off season was asked to pitch down in the Dominican winter league. In the winter leagues, all of the Major League baseball teams have scouts and Tommy was a free agent looking for a new team. The week before Thanksgiving I received a call on my cell phone here at work from a strange number and again it was Tommy. He said “Dave I know you were hoping I would pitch for the team in Red (The Cardinals) but it looks like I am going to get to be a little closer to home than that.” Tommy was going to be a Kansas City Royal! He got back home just before Thanksgiving and the Monday after Thanksgiving he went down to Kauffman Stadium and signed his contract. Tommy was officially going to get a chance to play for his hometown team.
That brings us to today. Tommy is down in Surprise, Arizona as I write this, getting ready to pitch this afternoon against the Anaheim Angels in a spring training game. He is fighting for a spot on the Major League roster. So far this spring he has not allowed any runs and just a couple of hits. We are hoping to see him back here in Kansas City when they have the home opener on April 13th.This small article does not do the whole Tommy Hottovy story justice. There are many more stories that I could share with you, but hopefully this gives you an idea of who Tommy is and why we are talking and rooting for him so much. Tommy is not just a guy you root for on the field, but he is one you root for off the field because of the type of person he is. We will keep you updated on his status as the season draws near.