CLEVELAND, Ohio – The statue honoring Jim Thome, the Indians all-time home run hitter, will be unveiled on Aug. 2 at Progressive Field.
Thome, talking Saturday at Tribe Fest, said he’s overwhelmed by it.
“All I can tell you it’s going to be pretty awesome,” said Thome, who works as a special assistant for the White Sox. “ “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.”
Lakewood sculptor Dave Deming made the statue. It shows Thome pointing the bat toward the mound.
“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 Manuel, a minor league hitting coach for the Indians at the time, suggested it to Thome after watching Robert Redford do it in the movie “The Natural.”
“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.”
Asked if the statue was life sized, Thome said, “It’s much bigger than all of us. What’s going to be cool is that it will stay. I mean like, now, in the snow. I always look at Bob Feller’s statute and No.1 you appreciate the player, but the fact that it’s up all year and people can come see it.
“If you were their favorite player, maybe they pass on a memory to a kid. It’s humbling.”
Manual would go on to manage Thome with the Indians and the Phillies. As a hitting coach, he changed Thome’s stance, which led to a career in which he hit 612 homers.
“Charlie meant everything to me . . .everything . . .hands down,” said Thome, seventh on the all-time home run list. “From confidence, to what he taught me from the mental side of hitting, to the little things mechanically that he taught me.
“He put my back foot on home plate and opened me up, which freed my hips up. That’s when I really saw my power keep progressing.”
Thome, 43, hit 337 of his homers with the Indians. He played in parts of 13 seasons with the Tribe, his first tour lasting from 1991 through 2002. The Indians brought him back in the second half of the 2011 season in a deal with the Twins.
Although he played in the steroid era, Thome was never connected to PEDs.
“It (steroids) was never presented,” he said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you can do this or we have this.’ Maybe I was naïve, I just played the game. I didn’t seek, nor did I ever seek, to do that.
“It was never around. It was never “Hey, it’s around do it.’ No, no. How people do it, I don’t know . . .The path that leads them to that point is their personal thing. At the end of the day, I think what makes you most proud is that you can stick your chest out and look in the mirror and say, “I did what I did.’’