Tomko savors chance to experience Cooperstown

Written by: Isabelle Minasian

Traveling to Cooperstown is a dream for baseball fans and players alike. But for former major leaguer Brett Tomko, it’s been years in the works.

Tomko spent 14 seasons as a pitcher in the bigs. Drafted by the Reds in the second round of the 1995 Amateur Draft, he spent three seasons in Cincinnati before stints with the Mariners, Padres, Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, Royals, Yankees and A’s. He finished out his big league career in Texas, at age 38, and it was there that he hatched a plan to travel to the Hall.

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“When I was with the Rangers, we had a trip coming to New York, and (teammate) Dave Bush and I had an off day, so I said ‘Let’s rent a car and drive out to the Hall of Fame. Let’s drive out to Cooperstown on our off day.’”

“Now, this was towards the end of my career, and I was coming back after having broken my shoulder in ’09, so I had to sign a 40-day waiver, which a lot of the veteran guys do, that says teams can send you back down.”

“We had it all planned, the car was reserved, and then I came in on my 40th day and got sent back to Triple-A so I had to cancel everything.”

As Tomko pointed out, Cooperstown isn’t always an easy place to get to. Located approximately an hour and a half drive from the region’s major airports, you don’t coincidentally happen upon the Hall of Fame; it takes planning, and strategy.

But with a chance to represent the Reds at the 2019 Hall of Fame Classic, Tomko found his path to Cooperstown.

Tomko’s family life – he has twin nine-year-old boys with his wife, Julia – has been his priority, but he’s “been wanting to come to [Hall of Fame Classic Weekend] since the day I retired, four years ago.” The right-hander is a regular at the Reds’ Fantasy Camp, so when they called him this year he initially thought it was to bring him out to Cincinnati.

“I had been putting this weekend in their ear all the time, like, ‘Hey, next year, Cooperstown, I’m your guy.’ So this year, when they asked if I wanted to come to Cooperstown, I was like, “Yes. I will drop anything I have to come.’ I was really excited.”

The trip did not disappoint.

“I’d heard so much about Cooperstown. I try to be a little bit of a historian of baseball, and to just walk around the Hall is amazing,” Tomko said. “I think as players we forget how privileged we are to get to play baseball – to get to play baseball for a long time. Walking into the Plaque Gallery, it’s so cool to see everyone who came before you, everyone who paved the way. I think every baseball player should come here and see that, just to get the perspective of how awesome it is for us to get to play this game.”

The weekend was also meaningful because it marked the “first ever guys’ trip” with his sons (his wife was unable to attend).

“It’s cool for them, because they were young and didn’t get to see me play. To get to see this is really special, and helps it make sense to them.”

Tomko’s first Classic game was a success on the field, too. The Reds’ representative got the start for Team Goose, facing six batters and striking out one, and later closing it out with another scoreless inning to end the game in a 9-9 tie.

Isabelle Minasian is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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