Summer of inductions illustrate Thome's reach

Summer of inductions illustrate Thome's reach

CHICAGO -- If Jim Thome had to write a "What I did this summer" essay, similar to what many young kids are penning as they return to school, his tale would feature more than a few cool vacations.

Thome was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame, along with Albert Belle, Frank Robinson and Charlie Jamieson, on July 30, and then was inducted as the 38th member of the Phillies Wall of Fame on Aug. 12. Thome served as an integral part of the amazing late-'90s run by the Indians, and while he hit 101 homers over a mere four years with the Phillies, his honor alongside Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Darren Daulton, to name a few, illustrates the impact Thome has wherever he goes.

"It's been fabulous. I guess 'overwhelming' has been the great term," Thome said during a recent interview with MLB.com. "Just humbling to have two organizations recognize you in that honor with the history of both, how long they have been in baseball.

"Then to go back and see all the teammates you played with and the managers, it was almost like it all happened yesterday that you were just there. It was very exciting and just a pleasure and honor to go back."

These Cleveland and Philadelphia inductions naturally moved into a question about Thome's first time on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2018. With 612 career homers, 1,583 runs scored, 1,699 RBIs and 1,747 walks -- not to mention the positive influence he imparted for so many on and off the field -- a first-ballot election seems greater than simply a possibility.

Being part of the historic players chosen to this fraternity would be a "special thing," per Thome. He thinks about it a little, but it's a process that has to play out.

"Winning a World Series, I've always said, is the pinnacle for every player to try to accomplish," Thome said. "And then that honor to go in that great fraternity is through longevity and playing a long time. Just having somebody recognize you for what you've done for the game, it would be very cool."

Not to be overlooked is Thome's third year as special assistant to White Sox senior VP/general manager Rick Hahn, where he's working across the organization. This job allows him to maintain a connection to the game he loves during retirement while also having those special family moments.

"You do a lot of listening," Thome said. "When they ask about your opinion, you give them a truthful and honest answer that as a baseball guy that played a long time, they want to hear. Having the opportunity to be around the game, I'm so honored."

"Jimmy still remembers what it's like to be that young kid taking 150 extra ground balls down at the Spring Training complex," Hahn said. "He relates just as easily with the big leaguers who are trying to achieve at the highest level to guys who just first showed up on campus to the coaches who are working with him at every level. He has a positive impact on every area he touches."

There was a true family component to the recent inductions, with his daughter, Lila, providing rousing renditions of the national anthem after both ceremonies, and his son, Landon, getting to go on the field with him in Cleveland. Success for his kids stood as the high point of Thome's summer honors.

"I was more nervous watching her than anything I experienced in the game," said a beaming Thome of his daughter. "We all, as parents, root for our kids to do well. And in life, there's no greater experience than to watch your kids succeed. That was an emotional time."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.