Rob Thomson is a proud, card-carrying member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and as a native of Sarnia, Ontario, that’s no small deal.

Good thing, because in the states–the United States–he didn’t exactly have a Hall-of-Fame-worthy playing career.

Selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round (795th overall pick) of the 1985 Major League Baseball Draft out of the University of Kansas, he played catcher and third base in their minor league system until 1988.

Class A was his ceiling.


GP: 192; AB: 661; .225/.312/.304; 7 HRs; 3 SB.

He pitched in one game too.

That’s it.

That’s all.


It was abundantly clear that his future in the game would not be as a player.


Although he played some hockey, Thomson was prepared to give his life to baseball.

And he did.

Remembers Torey Lovullo, a 1987 Single-A teammate, “You could just tell how much he loved baseball.

As the back-up catcher, he connected so many different dots in so many ways.

Even then, he was very organized in his thoughts.”

He was also affable, and had a strong work ethic, along with an undying passion.

In 1989, at 25, Thomson was hired to be Chris Chambliss’ only full-time coach with the Double-A London Tigers.

The job paid $6,000.

Thomson’s wife, Michele, was making more as a waitress.

Remarked Chambliss, the number one overall pick by Cleveland in the 1970 January MLB Draft, and with this resume as a player:

17 Seasons (3 teams–Cleveland, Yankees and Atlanta); 2175 GP; .279 BA; 185 HRs; 972 RBI; 2109 Hits.

“He was very young, but very mature.

A really dedicated young man.

Back then in the minors, there weren’t a lot of coaches and so you had to wear a lot of hats.

And you didn’t have to tell [Thomson] to do something.

He was a very, very hard worker.

Very dedicated.

So I’m not surprised what he has become.”

With this work ethic of his, which would become the stuff of legend, Thomson kept moving forward.

Over time.

A lot of time.

In 1990, he was hired to be the Yankees Single-A Fort Lauderdale third base coach.

And for 28 seasons, he worked his way up the Yankees’ ladder, learning from the likes of Buck Showalter, Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, among many others.

His attention to detail was fabulous.

Torre hung the moniker of “Topper” on Thomson because he was on top of everything while running major league spring training with military precision.

Razor-sharp and thorough.

Showalter said of him, “He is the type that does not get caught up in political footballs.

He doesn’t get caught up in sides.

Those are the types who survive because they are never on the fucking fence waiting to see how it turns out.

He is only about the betterment of the organization.”

And now at 58, Thomson, with a lifetime of baseball experiences–bat boy in Ontario; envoy in Russia; manager in Australia; part of the Tigers, Yankees and Phillies organizations; coach, minor league skipper, executive; and with 10,000+ hours of seeing it all and doing it all–is managing the Phillies in the World Series.

Should it be any surprise that he is orchestrating so beautifully this Fall?

Connecting to his players.

Masterfully handling the playoff and WS bullpen.

Two games from the whole enchilada.

Stay tuned.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in November 2022.]


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