While the majority of our work here at FutureSox focuses on the prospects and clubs within the White Sox organization, every once in a while we are fortunate enough to feature some of the people behind the scenes who are the catalysts to the processes of baseball operations. In this case, we spoke with long-time White Sox scout John Tumminia.
John Tumminia is a native New Yorker who just finished his 30th year in the White Sox scouting department. He started in the amateur ranks, eventually made his way to becoming an area supervisor and in 2005, per his request to Kenny Williams, Tumminia switched over to the professional scouting silo. Regardless of his role in the scouting department, Tumminia has been located in the Northeastern states. The scout of four decades recommended and signed Eric Gagne and scouted all seven of the players the White Sox traded for in the club’s December trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. However, John is much more than just a scout and he was gracious enough to offer me his time to tell me about it.
Not only did John just pass his thirty year mark with the White Sox, he just finished his thirty year run working with the Department of Corrections of New York. When Tumminia wasn’t dealing with young baseball talents and prisoners, he was devoting his time to his charity: Baseball Miracles. John and his team at Baseball Miracles travel around the world to bring baseball to disadvantaged kids. It’s more than traveling and teaching the kids the foreign game of baseball for a few days; there is an increased emphasis on giving to the community.
In a few different ways, I asked John what the goal and origin of his charity was. Before telling me it was rooted in his wife wanting him to be involved in helping disadvantaged children, he talked about something more novel: the idea of “having a catch” or simply, playing catch with a baseball. John elaborated, “We wanted to take this feeling of having a catch for the first time and bringing it to a child in a third world country – bringing it to a child who’s never had a catch with their father like me or you had.”
John’s decision to work with unpropitious prisoners in New York probably came from the goodness of his heart, but his charity seems to come from the love of his family and baseball’s place in his familial core. This is a guy who has two daughters - Tyler and Brooke - named after Ty Cobb and Brooks Robinson. I asked John how his wife felt about naming their daughter after a dirty baseball player who was implicated in a murder and John quickly noted that “she went along with it” before spending a couple minutes talking about Cobb’s competitiveness and how Robinson was the “best third baseman to ever touch the planet.” It goes without saying, Tumminia is true a baseball man.
The love of baseball and “having a catch” was fully embraced in the Tumminia household. John’s daughter Ty Tumminia, the now wife of former Red Sox General Manager and current Blue Jays Executive Ben Cherrington, even found herself in baseball against John’s previous wishes. Tumminia expanded:
“I actually didn’t want my daughter to get involved in baseball. She was working at a big public relations firm in Boston out of college making real good money. She decided to leave that job to take a public relations job with the Hudson Valley Renegades at about a fifth of the amount of salary because in her mind, and she said it to me, that she was going to be in the ownership group of a baseball team in three years. In less than three years, she became a Senior Vice President.”
Ty Tumminia’s love for baseball was surely a byproduct of her father’s love for having a catch. John recounted driving five hours back-and-forth to scout a high school Gavin Floyd and when he returned to his New York home late that night, his daughter still forced him to have a catch even though he was overtired and it was already dark out: “I threw her a pop up in the air and she caught it and she came in the house overjoyed...I’ve had catches with her, my other daughter, my granddaughters, and my son-in-law. Everybody has catches every Thanksgiving before we eat dinner.”
But getting back to Tumminia’s charity, it’s more than just having a catch and John spoke towards the foundation of the group: “I’d say the foundation of our group is to go where nobody has ever played baseball before and they’re very, very poor and we bring gloves, bats, balls and a cash donation and we teach baseball and have a lot of fun of doing it.” Nowadays, the group is better served to the purpose with a staff of nineteen major leaguers, minor leaguers, coordinators and even Colorado Rockies’ Manager Clint Hurdle. They have even extended their staff to have a Spiritual Advisor and a guy who makes the hot dogs. It hasn’t always been that easy though. Tumminia marveled about the charities first miracle:
“Baseball miracles started with three individuals and we had no idea what we were going to do. I mean we showed up in Monta Plata in the Dominican with 200 kids who only spoke Spanish and here we are trying to do a clinic for two days. Our first miracle happened when a young high school kid came up to me and said ‘Hey John, I am from Pennsylvania and I am visiting my grandmother and asked if I needed an interpreter and I said, ‘Yes! Here’s the bullhorn, whatever I say, just repeat it. It worked out great.’”
Nowadays, after successfully planning, financing and executing over a dozen trips to Ireland, Honduras and South Africa among other places, the goal is to have a continued relationship with the communities reached and continued growth for the charity as a whole.
As far as continuing the relationships with communities already aided, Tumminia and his team have already began converting on that. After getting “embracing” thanks and hugs from the children affected, Tumminia knew there was something more they had to do. Tumminia recounted, “They hug us, they cry and they’ll say ‘We’re never going to see you again.’” While that’s probably true, Tumminia says there is still more that Baseball Miracles can do. In recent times, they've sent ovens to an impoverished community, they sent clothes to Appalachia and coats to British Columbia. As John says, "It goes beyond baseball."
As far as continued growth for the charity, Baseball Miracles can never receive enough equipment and they would love to get even more contribution from professional ball players and coaches moving forward. Tumminia spoke towards the simple contirbutions from professionals that could make a big difference, “Maybe they’ll throw us a glove or go on one of our trips.”
Before getting off the phone with Tumminia, I asked him if we covered everything he wanted to about his charity and his response was, “I get a lot of credit for Baseball Miracles, but if there’s any way you can incorporate some of our team members into this I’d really appreciate it because this is a team of nineteen people doing special things.” So to Darka Shaheed, Clint Hurdle, Clay Daniel, Jerry Reinsdorf and others involved, John couldn’t speak more highly of your contributions and time devoted to the charity and the children impacted.
***We’d like to thank John for giving us the time and you can find all information on his charity at www.baseballmiracles.org or on Twitter @Basebmiracles. If we have any players or coaches, current or past, who would like to get involved in a great charity Baseball Miracles is always looking for volunteers and donations. Furthermore, for any youth baseball coaches who have kids outgrowing their baseball equipment, know that that there is a place that could put this equipment to good use.
**We will have a second part of interview with John coming soon covering John's role with the White Sox as a Pro Scout, the process of trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton and some notes on the new White Sox prospects they got in return.
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