Fictitious baseball player Roy Hobbs became part inspiration for former Indians slugger Jim Thome two decades ago in the minor leagues.
Now, a part of Hobbs’ hitting routine that Thome emulated to help settle himself in the batter’s box will be immortalized forever when the Indians unveil a Thome statue Aug. 2 at Progressive Field.
Dave Deming, a Lakewood sculptor, crafted Thome’s likeness. The moment frozen in time is of Thome pointing his bat toward the pitcher’s mound.
“I started pointing the bat when I was in the minors,” said Thome, the Tribe’s 13th-round draft pick in 1989 who went on to hit 337 of his career 612 home runs with the Indians.
“We were playing Scranton, but I don’t remember the year. (Former Tribe minor-league hitting coach) Charlie (Manuel) had seen a clip of Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford in the movie “The Natural”) pointing the bat.”
As a young hitter, Thome often felt tense as he prepared to hit a pitch. Looking for a way to create a more relaxed batting routine, Manuel suggested Thome point his bat like Hobbs did in the popular movie. The ploy worked so well, it stuck for the rest of Thome’s 22-year career that included parts of 13 seasons with the Tribe.
“It got my trigger ready to hit,” Thome said Saturday during the Indians Tribe Fest at Progressive Field.
Like the Bob Feller statue that already adorns Progressive Field, Thome’s is larger than life size and will stay up year round – snow and all.
“All I can tell you is it’s going to be pretty awesome,” said Thome, who currently serves as a special assistant for the Chicago White Sox. “How do you ever imagine when you play this game, getting an opportunity to have an organization put a statue up for you? I’m a little lost for words. As a player, I don’t even want to say you dream about 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.”