JACKSON, Tenn. -- Tom Herr could have stayed around the game of professional
baseball longer than he did.
As a second baseman, Herr spent the prime of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played in three World Series and in 1985 was a National League All-Star. He retired as a player after the 1991 season at 35 years of age, and he could have stuck around the game to pursue a coaching and managing career.
But Herr had other priorities on which he wanted to spend his time.
"At that time I had two sons and my oldest son was about 10 or 11 years old," Herr said. "I wanted to be a part of their school experience. I decided that it was more important than trying to hang with a team either as a player or in a coaching or managing career. That's not what I wanted to do."
So Herr went back home to Lancaster, Pa., to spend time with his wife and his two sons. They were more important to Herr than a managing career was.
He has no regrets.
"I really enjoyed being home and being a part of my kids' growing up experience and getting to participate with them in their high school athletics," he said. "I was involved in coaching and involved with kids, but it wasn't at the professional level."
A life in baseball tends to affect adversely players' families. Because of so much time on the road, players often have to sacrifice their family life. The problem would have been the same had Herr decided to pursue coaching.
"Oftentimes families split up because of that," Herr said. "The game disrupts so many families. I certainly didn't want that to happen to my family."
That's why Herr left professional baseball behind -- at least for a while.
"I wouldn't trade those years for anything that I was able to see my kids going through high school and playing sports and coaching their teams," he said.
And now, 14 years later -- after both sons have left home -- Herr has been given a chance to pursue the managing career he delayed for the sake of his family.
The Lancaster Barnstormers are in their inaugural season as a minor league baseball team and are affiliated with the Atlantic League, an independent league of eight teams in the New Jersey-Pennsylvania-New Hampshire area.
Since he lives in Lancaster, Herr was an obvious candidate for the managing position. He interviewed and got the job. The timing couldn't have been better.
Herr's youngest son Jordan graduated from high school in May and is now a student at the University of Delaware, where he will play baseball. Herr's oldest son Aaron was a shortstop with the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals this past season and recently signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds with an invitation to spring training.
Some might call it a coincidence that a minor league baseball team started up in Herr's hometown the same year his youngest son left home. Some might say Herr's selection as manager has nothing to do with the decision he made years ago to sacrifice his career for the sake of his family.
But it seems pretty clear that there's more involved here than just coincidence, and that God's hand has been involved in this process. Maybe the Lord is honoring Herr's decision to put his family first and has now provided Herr with an opportunity to do what he has desired for a long time.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Herr said. "This is just His way of giving me the best of both worlds."
Tim Ellsworth writes this column, a part of his First Person series, from his home in Jackson, Tenn. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his blog at www.timellsworth.com for additional commentary on sports, religion, culture and politics.