Jim Thome's phenomenal — and likely Hall of Fame worthy — major league career started with the Cleveland Indians in 1991. 23 years and multiple uniform changes later, that same Indians franchise confirmed their plans to honor and immortalize Thome with a statue at Progressive Field.
According to Fox Sports Ohio, the Indians plans for the Thome monument were actually put in place back in September of 2011, but the team wasn't going to move forward until Thome announced his retirement. Though Thome has yet to take that step and make his retirement official, he hasn't played in a big league game since Oct. 3, 2012. At this point a comeback would be difficult for the 43-year-old slugger, and he all but confirmed that late season when he joined the Chicago White Sox as a special assistant and consultant.
When asked about his statue at Tribe Fest on Saturday, Thome seemed content with the idea that his career is over, but mostly expressed how honored he was by Cleveland's tribute.
“All I can tell you it’s going to be pretty awesome,” said Thome. “How do you ever imagine, when you play this game, getting an opportunity to have an organization put a statute up of you? I’m a little lost for words.
“As a player, I don’t even want to say you dream of that. When it happens, when the opportunity comes about, it’s humbling. It’s just a wonderful thing. My family is just ecstatic about it.”
The detailed statue will reportedly include Thome's signature pre-pitch pose where he points the bat back towards the pitcher's mound. That information brought upon the revelation of the origin of Thome's batter's box routine. It actually came as a suggestion by former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel — who at the time was a hitting coach in the Indians organization — and inspired by the movie "The Natural."
“I started pointing the bat when I was in the minors,” said Thome. “We were playing in Scranton, but I don’t remember the year.”
“Charlie had seen a clip of Roy Hobbs (the character Redford played in the movie) pointing the bat,” said Thome. “See, when I got in the box, I was tense, everything was tight. He wanted to create that relaxing feeling in the box for me and pointing the bat did that.
“It got my trigger ready to hit.”
It looked cool, and it absolutely worked. Thome would go on to become Cleveland's all-time home run leader with 337, and he currently ranks seventh on MLB's all-time home run list with 612. Not bad for a big farm boy from Illinois.
The unveiling of Jim Thome's statue, which will be located beyond the center field wall at Progressive Field, will take place in a ceremony on August 2. The first 12,500 fans in attendance will be given replica Thome statues.
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