CHATHAM ─ When Tom Holliday realized after 41 years in baseball that he was best known as a college ball guy, he decided to stick with that label, which is why it suits the former Oklahoma State University head coach just fine that he'll be taking the reins as the new manager of the Chatham Anglers.
“When (former head coach) John Schiffner told us mid-season that this would be his last, we knew a replacement would have to be someone special to follow such a long and distinguished career,” said Steve West, president of the Chatham Athletic Association, the parent organization of the Anglers. “We know we’ve found just such a person in Tom Holliday. His and his family’s baseball pedigrees are superb and we are excited Tom will lead the Anglers into the next chapter of our storied existence.”
Holliday coached the Cowboys of OSU from 1997 to 2003 and has also coached at Auburn, North Carolina State, Texas, Miami (Florida), and Arizona State, serving as hitting coach, pitching coach, recruiting coordinator, assistant head coach, and at OSU, head coach.
“As many years as I've done college baseball, sometimes you start to think about what's next,” Holliday said. “I've looked into professional baseball and I love pro baseball, but after 41 years I'm labeled a college guy.”
Holliday said what he appreciates about the sport, and particularly the Cape League, is how renowned it is.
“It just took me over,” he said. “Everybody wants to send their best sophomores, and there are a lot of particulars about who you want to take. Coaches want kids in certain places, there are agents involved, scouting directors. It's a chance to have your hand in with all the people you've worked with for 40 years. It's kind of like the perfect storm for me right now.”
The newest Angler is particularly looking forward to having the opportunity to put together a stellar team.
“Having been in just about every situation you can imagine, I'm going to try to structure this thing to try to make everybody happy,” Holliday said. “If I didn't think you could do that I probably wouldn't have taken the job.”
Holliday also wants to continue to offer players the experience of a lifetime playing in Chatham for the summer.
“I want to give the kids an experience they'll never forget,” he said. “I think the summertime before their junior draft eligible summer, I want to give them a staff that can help prepare them for professional baseball. I don't want to be the guy that's driving them too hard just to win the championship. I think at Chatham, yes, winning the championship would be nice, but the goal is going to be giving the kids a great experience and letting the people in Chatham enjoy two months of good baseball.”
That said, Holliday is aware that the players he'll be coaching have their sights set on the Major Leagues. He intends to frame his summer around that knowledge, and using the example of his son Matt, the designated hitter for the New York Yankees, hopes to educate players as to what life in the Bigs is all about.
“If you really want to play in the big leagues there's a price to play,” he said. “I think I can explain to kids what the price is because I've been lucky enough to have a son play in the Majors.”
The season, he said, will be a balance of playing a game the ballplayers and fans enjoy while learning what it takes to make it to the next level.
“Do you really want to play in the Big Leagues? Do you know the price you're going to have to pay? It's not going to be done in an hour. It's not going to be done in a couple of days,” Holliday said. “But when they're done in Chatham at the end of the summer they're going to have an eye on the bigger picture in their lives. Baseball is a wonderful life but you've got to be prepared for it. I think I'm that kind of guy.”
Holliday grew up in western Pennsylvania and quickly fell in love with the game of baseball.
“I listened to every Pirates game, every game I could get on the radio,” he said. “Today players can TiVo the game they want to watch and watch their favorite guy.”
From 1972-1973 he played for the Yavapai Roughriders at Yavapai College in Arizona before heading to Miami (Florida) where he played from 1974-1975.
“Baseball's been my life,” he said.
His love of the sport was something passed along to his sons. While Matt plays for the Yankees,
Josh is now the head coach at Oklahoma State. Holliday said that it was with his sons' encouragement that he accepted the Anglers job. He applauds Schiffner for his efforts and longevity and is looking forward to his first summer in Chatham.
“I have tremendous respect for Schiff to stay in one job for 25 years,” he said. “His friends, I hope, will be my friends.”
Holliday is most looking forward to becoming a part of the esteemed Cape Cod Baseball League, and sharing its excellence with his family, friends, and future players.
“When you say Cape Cod it kind of comes off like it's way up there on the East Coast, but quietly it's taken over,” he said. “Cape Cod is the place to go for the best summer league baseball, and the best prospects. The Cape is like every kid's destiny. I think the people of Cape Cod should know how special it is. I’m very excited about coming to Chatham. I’ve coached at virtually every level in the college game and coming to the Anglers in the Cape Cod Baseball League provides a nice cap on a wonderful career.”