Nearly 10 years sober, Thompson inspires Sox

After battling addiction, asset on player development staff shares valuable stories

Nearly 10 years sober, Thompson inspires Sox

CHICAGO -- It has been a little more than three years since Tommy Thompson sat down with MLB.com and talked about his previous struggles with alcohol addiction. Simply put, he lost everything.

Now almost 10 years sober, the gregarious Thompson hasn't stopped sharing those stories.

"You know what? It's part of me," Thompson, who works in the White Sox player development department, said during a recent interview. "I hate to say that I'm proud of it -- the experience I had to go through -- but the feedback I've gotten from that interview has been tremendous, with people struggling with some life situations, making wrong choices.

"So I'm not squeamish. It's stuff that I continually have to work on day in and day out. Until I die, I know I'm an alcoholic/addict and I have work to do.

"But I'm blessed every day to realize that I have a lot of people on my side, from sponsors to good support groups to meetings I can go to. There are people in this organization with the White Sox, people that I can ask for help and continue to get advice and guidance."

Thompson moves between Triple-A Charlotte, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Class A Kannapolis to lend his expertise from 1,259 games and 10 seasons as a Minor League manager and four other seasons as a coach. He also had the honor of serving as bullpen coach for the U.S. team in the 2017 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Minor League Spring Training was set up and run by Thompson, who laughed when he said it was a bit overwhelming but "a great learning experience." There are also the speeches Thompson gives to the young players, the lessons imparted, explaining all he went through to get to this stable and successful point.

"It's an invaluable, necessary talk that he gives each Spring Training," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said. "It's an emotional talk, and it's not uncommon to see players around the room with tears in their eyes. He gives all of himself to the discussion and the players, and that's why they appreciate and love him."

"He certainly is not shy to share his stories, but with the intention of helping," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. "He's been through so many things."

Williams spoke of conversations the two had during Thompson's tougher times ending in "hugs and tears on both of our ends." Other conversations resulted "in some pretty stern talks on my part to try to let a friend know that he needed help."

"If I'm being honest, there was a time where I was surprised he was still alive," Williams said. "Maybe better put, I wouldn't have been surprised if I got the dire news. But he's been a tremendous asset for a number of years and continues to be."

Peace and happiness rule Thompson's days. It's never easy, but with the help of a great support system -- including his wife, Leeanne -- it's definitely working.

"I still have thoughts and desires. I'm not over that," Thompson said. "I still think, like, 'It's 95 degrees, and you know what? A cold beer would taste good.' But I can't go that direction. That one beer could lead me right back to the bottom where I was.

"My sponsor continues to help me, and it continues to get better. I never thought how good it can get. The relationship with my wife, the organization -- that's the White Sox -- have been unbelievable for me as a person, and doing what I love to do every day is just a gift and a blessing, man. I'm very, very lucky and fortunate."

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.