All Ex-Jay Eric Thames needed was a change of scenery

04/28/2016 10:45 PM - Devo

Former Toronto Blue Jays prospect Eric Thames is destroying baseballs on an epic level. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, he climbed the ladder on his way to the big league level at an accelerated rate, solidifying his ranking as Baseball America's #15 rated prospect in the PCL.

Once promoted to the Jays' MLB roster, he battled another highly touted Jays prospect in Travis Snider for one of the remaining outfield spots. Unfortunately, neither performed up to the lofty expectations set in front of them. Both were traded prior to the end of the 2012 season. Since, Thames has spent time in the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros minor league organizations doing what he always does; produce.

Major League pitching is another story. Thames has a career .309 MiLB batting average, .250 in the majors. He fell in to that dreaded 4-A category; a player who dominates at Triple A, but falters when called up to the 25 or 40 man roster. It remains a mystery as to why certain players excel at the highest level, but their game doesn’t translate over when they take that next step.

The Jays, and many other teams, have had a myriad of players who would benefit from that Quad-A category (Snider, Eddie Zosky). Yet, there isn’t one single thing that would make you think Thames couldn't perform. The numbers with the Blue Jays and Mariners is only a small sample size and doesn’t reflect his ability. And regardless of what his short MLB experience tells you, he can flat out play. 

After his release from the Astros organization in 2013, Thames' career took him overseas to the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization. To put it mildy, Thames is dominating pitching and that's an understatement. In 2014, he hit 37 home runs to go with 121 RBI while batting .347. His OPS was a staggering 1.111. What could he do for an encore? How about 2015 KBO MVP. The numbers were shocking and his production increased in nearly every category. His batting average was pushing .400 (.381) and he belted 47 big flies (you can see each one here), drove in 140, stole 40 bases (up from 11) and walked over 110 times. Even more impressive, which is hard to believe, was his Bonds like OBP of .497 and Ruthian slugging of .790.

There's no doubt that Thames has come in to his own. Being able to play everyday without worrying about a position or spot in the line-up allows you to focus on the game and the game alone.. He's proven he's got all the tools to be successful. At 29 years old, and in the prime of his career, it would be a surprise if he's not on a MLB roster come the end of the season. 

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here
 

Undrafted's Chad Toocheck discovered what's important

04/17/2016 7:09 AM - Devo

Chad Toocheck was featured on the NFL Network’s Undrafted. The show focuses on collegiate football players looking for an opportunity to play at the next level. The road is long, the road is hard, yet every athlete has one goal in mind; play in the NFL.

Toocheck’s story is one of struggle, redemption and ultimately, success. After battling through years of addiction, the NFL is no longer his priority. His focus is now on helping others who have gone down a similar path.  

The GM’s Perspective: Your story about battling with drugs and alcohol is very well known as you were profiled on the NFL Network’s Undrafted. What was biggest change that made you decide to get off that destructive path and focus on your life/health and getting back into athletics?

Chad Toocheck: My mom and my sponsor, Scott. He wasn’t mentioned in the show I don’t believe. Scott played a huge role and was a big part of why I got sober. Once we had a little time together everything seemed to fall into place. I was really angry when I first got sober. But I decided to start going to the gym and start working out.

After about a year sober, I called Scott and said what do I do now? I’m 20 years old and I feel I have more to offer to the world than just being sober. I’m sincerely appreciative of where I’m at right now, but I’m too young to just be doing what my peers are doing. My peers in the 12-step program are usually 40 to 50 years old at the time and I’m hanging out with people who are already in the middle of their careers. They told me I could do whatever I want. And I wanted to play football.

GMs: Was your mother and your sponsor the biggest influence into your life change? Or was there a single moment that made you take a step back and say I want things to change?

CT: 100 percent of my journey was single handedly because of my mother. She gave me an ultimatum; she was going to call the cops or I was going to the hospital. I wouldn’t be sober today if it wasn’t for that woman. I’ve done my work in the matter, but as far as the initial steps, it was her. I put her through hell and she stuck right by my side. It was her and once I found my sponsor, he kind of took over from there.

GMs: Unfortunately, you weren't drafted. How was the entire process, despite not getting that call?

CT: I had a lot of time to reflect on this lately and it’s been weird and fun. I didn’t have fun doing it if that makes any sense. I enjoyed the process of everything that was going on, but I had moments of getting caught up in the whole thing. I was magnifying everything that was occurring around me. Football to me is fun. I honestly never thought I had a remote chance of playing professionally. And now I’m sitting in front of 32 teams in the NFL with a camera crew following me around. It was very stressful. I did my best and tried to keep a level head the best as I could. The experience was cool and something I’ll never forget. If I could go back and do it again I would probably just remind myself to have fun with it and not take myself so seriously.

GMs: Most recently, you signed a contract with the Arena Football League's Cleveland Gladiators. Because of an injury you were released, but you have proven you are good enough to play. What is your current status with them?

CT: Current status is day-to-day. I continue to work my butt off and see what God wants me to do. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to him. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my mom. She’s gone now, so maybe she’s got a little more pull. I’m trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go. The injuries in the Arena League come and go. It’s crazy. You’re playing indoor football! If they bring me back that’s cool. If they don’t it’s no big deal.

One of the things I’ve learned along this whole journey is that football is a vessel to get me where I’m going. What really drives me is helping other people. It would mean more to me to have somebody see their dream come true than to see my dream come true. The dream has changed. It’s no longer dreaming about making millions of dollars in the NFL. That would be great, but if I can go in an impact the lives of 5, 10, 15 or 100 people who can change their life for the positive like Scott and my mom did for me, I’m winning.

GMs: That’s a fantastic attitude. You’ve been through a lot and you’re at the point where you’re playing athletics at a level that not many get to do. You’re realistic about your future and what’s ahead of you. Not many get to the stage where you’re willing to sacrifice your time for the good of others.

CT: I appreciate that. I hear people saying I’m a role model and its crazy for me to hear that, especially when I was aimlessly wandering through life. The number one thing I continue to tell these kids is when you decide you’re going to do something; you need to see it through. If you hit a wall great, now run through it. God is going to put another one there. He’s going to push you and continue to push you.

The thing that terrifies me is if I give up right before I get my shot. That scares the crap out of me. When I got hurt last year on Undrafted, I was so disappointed and caught up in everything that I didn’t know what I was going to do. They told me to keep working because you never know when you might get that phone call.

GMs: I've read that you are a business owner and one of your priorities with the Gladiator's was to get involved in community outreach programs? Can you elaborate?

CT: I’m actually involved in a couple different companies. My buddy is running a sportswear company and it’s just getting launched now; Got That Sportswear. I’m helping him here and there, but my buddy and I are also running a nutrition company. It’s been great. It’s something I’ve already been involved in previously. It pays the bills. I love working with my friends, but the community thing is what’s most important to me.

It’s difficult to get something started when I’m still focused on football and could get a call any day. For now I do a lot of volunteer work and people know I want to help in the community. I’m very vocal about what I want in my life; I want to help people and I want to help kids more so than anything. I still volunteer at the high school I went. Those kids are striving to be better. Football taught me a lot of lessons. Once I get in front of these kids who might be starting to head down the wrong path, that’s where it all begins.

GMs: Late last year you were diagnosed with testicular cancer in November. How do you keep on staying so focused and motivated on becoming the best Chad Toocheck you can be amidst all these obstacles?

CT: Getting sober was such a hard thing for me to do and taught me something that I tell everybody; you don’t know how strong you are until you don’t have a choice but to be that strong. I’ve translated that into every aspect of my life. The whole time I was going through chemotherapy I only missed four days at the gym. Most of those days were hitting the treadmill and walking for five or ten minutes and then taking a nap on the bench next to it. It’s the point of knowing I’m going to go there and do it.

There’s no choice in the matter. A bad day is part of life. As long as I show up, the results will take care of themselves. One thing the NFL Network didn’t touch on, which was a huge motivating part of my story, is when I first went out to play football in California. They told me on a Friday that if I didn’t show up on the Monday I didn’t have a shot. I was in Ohio, so I packed my bags on Saturday, flew out on Sunday, and was homeless for almost two weeks while trying out for the football team. I stayed at a homeless shelter a couple nights a week and that was five miles away. I would carry all my stuff back and forth everyday. I’m firm believer that if you want something in life go out and get it. Nothing is given. From having to bare my soul on a rock bottom level when I got sober and thinking I was going to die, there was no doubt in my mind that I was at the end of my rope. Somehow I made it through that. Nothing facilitates change more than pain.

GMs: What are your words or thoughts to others who are struggling with similar circumstances?

CT: I believe in you. I didn’t have a lot of that along the way. My mom was the only person that really believed in me the whole time. That was such an awesome thing to hear that she had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. I believe in everyone that’s going out there and fighting through whatever it is they’re fighting through. You do have the strength to get through it and you can get through it. If you dig just a little bit deeper you can make that happen.

For those people who are telling you you can’t do it, you need those people. I don’t talk about my dad a lot, but I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for him. He was the voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that. Every time I want to skip a rep at the gym or think I should forget about it and go get drunk, I have that voice in my head telling me I can’t let him be right.

GMs: I can’t thank you enough for your time. I’ve spoken with Chris Herren a number of times and he’s battled demons similar to yours. Another similarity is how you want to help people, coaching to the proper things, and living right. Your words are going to help people. If this helps one person who's reading it, it’s all worth it.

CT: Thank you. Without you our words don’t get heard and they’re all for nothing. You keep doing you and don’t ever stop doing you. You don’t even know it but you’re affecting people’s lives in a positive way. We need more people like you.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

2016 MLB Collection available at Tommy Bahama

04/09/2016 9:35 PM - Devo

The season has started and Tommy Bahama's 2016 MLB Collection is available.

David Ortiz, one of MLB's most celebrated players, has been immortalized on Tommy's 2016 Collector's Edition Series. Ortiz is a sure fire Hall of Famer and one of the greatest Boston Red Sox Players of all time.

"We are so excited to be able to develop a special ‘Collector’s Edition’ shirt honoring David Ortiz’s amazing career,” said Doug Wood, CEO of Tommy Bahama. “It’s projects like this one, that have made our long-standing partnership with Major League Baseball so rewarding."

Tommy also prepared a night out with Ortiz where fans could get their photo with him, receive an autographed baseball, and partake in a Q&A session hosted by Mark DeRosa.

 

This year's edition of MLB apparel marks Tommy's eighth collaborative effort with them and it could be its greatest collection to date. Suited for baseball fans, enthusiasts, and Tommy followers, this collection is superior:

MLB Team Panel Backs:  Original artwork and logos of these legendary teams are embroidered and printed on the back and left sleeve of a classic silk panel back shirt. These shirts are available for five select MLB teams – New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Retail: $158
 
MLB Firewall Half-Zip:  This must have sweatshirt made of lightweight, moisture-managing fabric and detailed with embroidered team logo on the sleeve, will keep you dry and comfortable all season long.   Available in select MLB teams. Retail:  $118
 
Cool, Palm, and Collected:  This baseball jersey inspired camp shirt in a colorful tropical print with team logo embroidered on the left sleeve is a real home run! Available in select MLB teams. Retail: $158
 
 
Diamond Dinger:  Embroidered bats and balls form the eye-catching “diamonds” on the front and a baseball diamond (as in, a playing field!) on the back embellishes this solid color jacquard shirt. Team logo on the left sleeve.  Available in all 30 MLB teams. Retail: $158
 
Paradise Sliders:  Slide headfirst into comfort (figuratively, of course) with this ballpark-friendly camp shirt. Detailed artwork is embroidered on the back and team logo on the left sleeve. Available in all 30 MLB teams. Retail $158
 
Fairweather Fronds Polo: Show your team pride and your love of tropical style with this subtle-yet-sophisticated floral pattern polo. Made from super soft cotton with team logo embroidered on the left sleeve. Available in all 30 MLB teams. Retail: $98
 
You can see more of Tommy Bahama and their MLB Collection here
 
Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here
 

It's more than wrestling, WWE changes lives

04/03/2016 10:23 AM - Devo

In World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) personalities, not just athleticism, drive the business. From Hulk Hogan, the Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena, these "public" figures are larger than life. 

Wrestlemania 32 is set for later tonight and the festivities will be in full throttle. Their yearly Hall of Fame induction ceremony that featured Sting, The Godfather, The Fabulous Freebirds, Big Bossman, Jacqueline, Stan Hansen, Joan Lunden, and Snoop Dogg is amongst the highlights of this star-studded weekend. Aside from the glitz and the glamour, what gets lost is the outstanding work in the community and dedication to social responsibility.

For those who think WWE is all about show is completely wrong. Cena, the Hulk Hogan of this generation, has gone above and beyond what one would expect a superstar to do. To think that Cena, a main eventer who is on the road for nearly the entire year, could do more than expected is a an understatement. In all, the WWE has granted over 6,000 wishes with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Their relationship began in the early 1980's when the Hulkster became the most requested. Since, over 50 superstars have participated. Cena's work with the Foundation is the stuff of legend. He was the first athlete ever to grant 500 wishes. In addition to his 500th wish, which was granted in August of 2015, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon made a $1 million commitment to Make-A-Wish. Cena, who has the fame, glory, and all the accolades that come with being the top performer in the industry, understands that it's more than championships, it's about helping people in their time of need.

"I want them to have an experience that will stay with them to forever," Cena said. "I don't ever want the children or their families to be treated in a way where they feel as if they're up against anything at all."

For over a decade, the WWE has been a staunch supporter of the US Armed Forces. WWE Tribute For The Troops has been their way of honoring the men and women who serve to protect their country on a daily basis. In early November of 2014, WWE Smackdown profiled veteran Dan Rose. Rose was a in the Army Reserves for over 10 years. He served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan until he was injured by an Improvised Explosive Device in 2011 that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Rose was able to walk again with the unbelievable support of SoldierSocks, an Ekso Bionics GT™ robotic exoskeleton suit that enables individuals with paralysis to stand up and walk. According to the WWE they want "To share our strength with the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces both at home and abroad through programs that boost morale for soldiers in the field, offer free entertainment for active military at home, and provide workforce assistance for veterans."

Joan Lunden was honored at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony last night. You might ask yourself, what does Lunden, a American journalist, author and television host have to do with wrestling? In 2014 Lunden was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was the recipient of the second annual Warrior Award. According to a recent WWE press release, "The award is given to someone who has exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior." WWE's Connor's Cure is another example of how a company, best known for its high flying aerobics and sensationalism, can use their reach and touch countless lives. Paul Levesque, better known as The Game, Triple H, along with his wife Stephanie McMahon, created Connor's Cure as a way to honor the life and spirit of Connor Michalek, a Pittsburgh native and lifelong WWE fan who passed away from cancer. Since its inception, Connor's Cure has raised over $1 million and has helped the lives of countless families in the process.

In a sport where violence is the norm, we must realize that it's entertainment. No one is meant to get hurt, but in the ring people do. Injuries can happen just as in any sport. These athletes are putting their bodies on the line day in day out to put smiles on the faces of those in attendance and watching at home. Despite what happens in the ring, WWE is at the forefront of standing against bullying and violence. Partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, DoSomething.org, GLAAD, Athlete Ally, The You Can Play Project and Champions Against Bullying (to name a few), the WWE wants to ensure people are treated fairly. Everyone should be accepted for who they are. WWE's diversity description says it all: "To break down prejudices and promote a culture of fairness and respect through programs and initiatives that educate, enrich, and empower people to create a positive social environment for all, regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical ability." 

Superstar Titus O'Neil played collegiate football for the Florida Gators and professionally in the Arena Football League; a superior athlete and even better person. O'Neil provided an essay to The Player's Tribune describing his own upbringing and what fatherhood means to him. It really is a special read and allows you to understand what family means to him. In an unprecedented act of kindness, O'Neil took a group of homeless people for lunch. When asked about it, his focus was on everyone being treated equal, regardless of his or her situation.

“I’m gathering homeless people to take them out to eat at @yardhouse last night I did the same thing and the manager seemed distant in Serving the two last night so I said instead of just posting I’ll gather more and eat lunch with them at that Restaurant. They need to learn how to treat All humans as such. #ContentOfCharacter #AllLivesMatter”

WWE and the wrestling industry is fascinating. Undoubtedly, these masters of the squared circle are the best in the world at what they do. Triple H said it best, "I've got the body, I've got the ability, I've got the talent, and I've got the brains. A superstar in the ring needs the total package and It's few a far between when one can cross over into the mainstream. When they do, they use all of their reach to go beyond anyone's expectations.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

 
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