Baseball has long been a bond shared between fathers and sons. They can be seen at the Little League fields, fathers soft tossing to young boys, or sitting on the porch explaining the secrets of a well-oiled glove.
The youngest of five children, White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome was too young to remember his father Chuck's prowess on the fast-pitch softball fields in his hometown of Peoria, Ill. But Jim's own abilities serve as a testament to his father's skill and teaching abilities.
"Baseball was obviously in my family and he definitely pushed it, but not to a point where it was bad," Thome said. "It was always around, and my passion for it kind of filtered through him."
As a foreman at the Caterpillar plant, Chuck used to take days off to take a young Jim to Cubs and Cardinals games. But it was the time spent with his dad, teaching Jim the finer aspects of the game, that the slugger remembers most.
"All those times going down to the Little League diamond when he would throw me [batting practice] when I was 8 or 9," Thome said as he smiled. "My dad's a very smart baseball guy, so it was very nice to have someone teach you the game that knew what he was doing. I always felt very comfortable listening to my dad because of that."
While Thome is known primarily as an offensive threat, his favorite parts of his dad's lessons were the defensive drills. He has played more than 1,500 games with the Indians, Phillies and White Sox at both first and third base. He has a career fielding percentage at first base of .994.
"My dad was really more of a defense guy than anything else," Thome said. "Fundamentals were his thing. He liked offense, I think every dad does, but he likes the way that you do the other things."
Chuck Thome used to attend as many Indians and Phillies games as he could, but his son likes his current home with the White Sox because it is so close to Peoria that it allows his dad to come to more games.
The lessons that Jim Thome learned from his father extend outside of the batter's box. Chuck taught his son the importance of sportsmanship as well.
Thome has won numerous awards that reflect his sincere and positive demeanor, including the MLB Players Association Man of the Year award. A 2005 survey by the Tribune Co., found Thome to be the best teammate in Major League Baseball. He received three times as many votes as the players who finished second, a testament to the character the affable slugger learned from his dad.
Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.