DP-Please list any college statistics of importance, awards won:
TM-My college career was pretty mediocre until my senior year. Up until my senior year I had around a 4.30 ERA and was a .500 pitcher. My senior year, however, something clicked and I had a great year. I led the NCAA in ERA with a season ERA of 1.09 in 124 innings or work. I finished the year 11-2 and was named the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year. I was also named to the NCAA Division-I All-American team, All-Conference team and I was named Furman Male Athlete of the Year.
DP-Please list any major high school accolades:
TM-In high school I was a good player, but not great. I thought I was a lot better than I really was. I was a late bloomer. The major accolades that I received were All-Conference my Junior and Senior year, and All-State my Senior year. I was 23-2 my Junior and Senior year’s combined with a 0.93 ERA and 0.91 ERA respectively.
DP-What are some of your nicknames?
TM-I really don’t have any nicknames. The names I hear the most are “Big Furm” which stands for Furman and my size. I am 6’6” and 230 lbs so people think I’m pretty big. One of my good friends (Brian Patrick who graduated from Duke in ’03) that I played college summer ball and professional ball (Blue Jays) with donned me with that nickname. The other name I hear the most is “Freak”, again just because of my size.
DP-What is your greatest high school thrill?
TM-My greatest high school thrill was graduating. Other than that it would have to have been being named All-State. High school was pretty boring for me and was glad to move on in life. Baseball was pretty much my life back then, I did play a little soccer up until my sophomore year and golf (for a hobby) but nothing much other than that.
DP-What is your greatest thrill, or two, beyond high school?
TM-Beyond high school I have had a number of thrills. Graduating from college was a big thrill and a huge accomplishment in my opinion. Next, getting drafted in the 2003 draft. Both of these accomplishments had been life-long goals of mine. Winning the ERA title in the South-Atlantic league and being named to the All-Star teams my first two professional seasons were big thrills also, but I would have to say that my biggest thrill was getting married this past October.
DP-Who are the three toughest hitters you faced in high school and the three toughest after high school?
TM-To be honest with you, I can’t remember any hitters from high school. College hitters? Tough question, but I would have to say: Ryan Gordon (UNC-Greensboro), Buchanan (Western Carolina) and Khalil Greene (Clemson).
DP-What was your toughest adjustment (in and out of baseball) after high school?
TM-The toughest adjustment for me was being on my own and having to study for school. College was a lot tougher for me than high school was. As for baseball, the biggest adjustment I had to make was from going from the top player on the team to an average player, and having to prove myself day in and day out. My work ethic really had to improve in college.
DP-What is the biggest crowd you’ve ever performed in front of and where?
TM-I would have to say the biggest crowd that I have performed in front of was last year up in Akron, Ohio. We had a weekend game in front of about 10,000 people. Next would be Staten Island, New York were I pitched in front of about 8,500. In college, the biggest crowd was against Clemson were there was about 4,000 people packed into our stands.
DP-Tell people out there what draft day was like for you:
TM-Draft day for me was a little bittersweet. Being drafted was always a dream of mine, and after my senior year was over and draft day came, I had high expectations. I had a great senior year, and had been told by some teams that I should expect to be taken in the 4th-8th round. Well, draft day came and the rounds started rolling off. By about the 9th round I decided enough was enough and my friend and I left for Chicago to go to a Cubs game with my sister (the game was actually the game that Sammy Sosa had the corked bat so that was kind of cool). On the way up to Chicago I received a phone call from the Blue Jays telling me that I was drafted in the 11th round. Of course I was ecstatic, but a bit disappointed in the round I was drafted. I soon got over the disappointment of not being drafted as high as I would have liked, and realized that I had finally reached one of my major life’s goals.
DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why?
TM-The person/people that have had the greatest impact on my life are my parents and my wife. All three of them have contributed to my success in different ways, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they support me in whatever I do. It always makes it easier to succeed at what you’re doing when you have people backing you up. I’ve had a lot of other people influence me along the way including my college coaches and teammates, and it’s hard for me to narrow it down to a single individual. I have been lucky enough to find a strong support group (family) that supports me and gives me advice when I need it.
DP-Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball player and why?
TM-Again, my parents and my wife have probably had the biggest impression on my baseball career. They have supported me all along the way and have been there for me when I need them. The next person that had the biggest influence on my career was my college coach Ron Smith. Coach Smith may not have always given me the answer that I was looking for, but sometimes that’s what you need. He pushed me to succeed, and made it hard for me to fail. He expected great things out of me and did not except anything else. He encouraged me to practice like I would play. Hard. He told me he saw a professional career in my future, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
DP-You had one of the more remarkable seasons that I can recall in the aluminum bat era, 1.09 ERA in 124 innings! What did you do to make that jump that forced scouts to recognize you?
TM-I worked at it. I had a disappointing junior season and I do not like to fail. My senior year I decided to lay it all on the line, and leave nothing to chance. I don’t know what really happened to me that year, and I don’t think that anyone could really answer that question. I had a lot of things going on that year, and baseball was my release. I was overloading in school taking extra credit hours in order to graduate on time (42 Hours), and baseball was an outlet for stress. Being a professional player was a dream of mine since I started playing ball at age 5. My whole life leading up to the draft, when people would ask me what I wanted to do with my life I would say: “I want to be a baseball player.” I had some people in my life that thought that that dream was un-ambitious, and that I should set realistic goals. I guess I wanted to prove these doubters wrong, and reach one of my long-term goals.
DP-Did you know in advance you were trade-bait? How did it feel when you found out you were switching organizations?
TM-No, I did not know that I was “trade-bait.” I’ve found out over the past couple of years that you should not worry about things that you cannot control. Worry about yourself and everything else will fall into place. When the trade happened I was very excited because I felt that I was in a dead end organization with the Blue Jays. I had had my two best years in baseball, and even two of the best years in the Blue Jays minors. I was 18-3 with a career ERA around 2.20, and was told, “That I might be ready for the Florida State League, but the FSL might not be ready for me.” I didn’t understand what that meant at the time, nor do I know now, but I did know that the organization did not have me on the fast track. Being traded, in my opinion, was a new beginning for me, and maybe the new organization might have more hope in me, by trading a big-leaguer for me.
DP-Who is your favorite athlete (non-baseball)?
TM-Bo Jackson. I know you said not baseball, but he played two sports and epitomized everything that a “Professional” athlete should be; hard-working, humble, competitive and selfless.
DP-Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player and why?
TM-I would have to say Greg Maddux and Albert Pujols. Both players are hard working, competitive and seem to be very humble. As you can see these are three traits that I think are important to be a successful athlete/person. I also like these players because they are not “flashy” players. They don’t show people up. They go out there and do their job and, most of the time, are successful.
DP-Who is your favorite MLB team (optional)?
TM-Other than Cleveland……the Chicago Cubs, because my parents and their families grew up in Chicago and were/are Cubs fans. I had no choice.
DP-What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball?
DP-What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball?
TM-Indianapolis Colts games and Duke basketball
DP-What goals do you have for yourself in and out of baseball?
TM-Obviously with baseball it is to make it to the majors and stay there. Outside of baseball my goal is to be happy. I have a Business Administration degree, but I’m not sure what I want to do with it yet. I’ve thought about opening up a baseball academy when all is said and done, but I’m not even sure if that’s what I want to do. Basically, I don’t know…..I want what everyone else wants; happiness, security and to be successful in whatever I do.
DP-If you could have dinner with three people in history, who would they be and why?
TM-Adolph Hitler–to ask him what was he thinking? Lee Harvey Oswald–to ask him if he killed JFK and Roger Clemens–to discover what his secrets to success are and to get a copy of his work-out regiment.
DP-Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
TM-Playing in the big leagues.
DP-Give a high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice.
TM-If I had to give a couple pieces of advice, they would be to never quit chasing your dream. If you believe in something take every opportunity available to you and go after it. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that baseball is a “game,” enjoy it, have fun and never lose sight of that. RELAX and trust your abilities. Finally, never stop being a student of the game. Ask questions, study other players, LISTEN to constructive criticism and believe that failure makes you stronger.
DP-Tom, Thanks a ton, I really appreciate your doing this for us. Good luck in 2006!.