COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Before Jim Thome steps up to the podium on that big lawn outside the Clark Sports Center today and delivers, in that folksy and earnest voice of his, the speech he's spent months crafting, considering and rehearsing, the voice of a different Thome will be heard by
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Before Jim Thome steps up to the podium on that big lawn outside the Clark Sports Center today and delivers, in that folksy and earnest voice of his, the speech he's spent months crafting, considering and rehearsing, the voice of a different Thome will be heard by the thousands in attendance for the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
His daughter, Lila Grace.
The Hall of Fame tapped the 15-year-old girl to be the event's leadoff hitter, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in talking with reporters on Saturday, Thome seemed as excited for her special moment as he was for his own.
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"She's worked really hard to get an opportunity like this," Thome said. "So when you think about it, this is a great honor. My daughter doesn't play sports and she's been in theater for the last six or seven years. What an incredible moment, to get a chance to be on stage and do that."
We know Thome for his power, not his pipes. And he made it abundantly clear that his daughter's singing talent, which she has put on display before multiple Major League games, was not a trait handed down from him.
"You wait," he said. "I'm a little biased, because she's my daughter, but her voice is breathtakingly beautiful."
Among Thome's many career accomplishments, he hit 13 walk-off home runs -- the most all time. So he knows about performing under pressure, and he's given his daughter some advice in that regard.
"Relax, be in the moment," Thome said. "When big situations happen and you're emotional, just breathe and slow down."
Thome's anticipation for Sunday's national anthem was a highlight of his session with reporters on Saturday. Here are some other highlights from the interviews with the five additional members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, who will be inducted on today at 1:30 p.m. ET. MLB.com will carry a live simulcast of MLB Network's coverage of the festivities starting at 11 a.m. ET.
Trevor Hoffman: Ring the bell
AC/DC's music is a, uh, slightly different sonic experience than Lila Grace Thome's "breathtakingly beautiful" anthem treatment. But it's a decent bet that AC/DC will make an appearance -- audibly, not physically -- at Sunday's ceremony, because the introduction of Hoffman simply would not be complete without the sound of "Hells Bells" ringing aloud.
That sound became Hoffman's signature, an electric entrance that fired up Padres fans and left opponents -- to borrow another AC/DC line -- thunderstruck. Even fellow closer Jason Isringhausen once admitted to Baseball Digest that when you went to San Diego back in the day "you want to win two out of three, so you can hear it once." The association between Hoffman and "Hells Bells" is basically Pavlovian at this point.
And to think, Hoffman used to come out to something totally different.
"The Fabulous Thunderbirds' 'Wrap It Up,'" he said. "It wasn't really exciting our crowd."
Hoffman credited Chip Bowers (who at the time worked in corporate sales for the Padres and is now director of business operations for the Marlins), Erik Meyer (the Padres' director of entertainment and production) and former team executive Dr. Charles Steinberg for putting the pieces together to make "Hells Bells" a more popular and marketable music selection. Hoffman, who once met and hand-delivered a Padres jersey to the members of AC/DC when they played a show in San Diego, said the song still gives him "chills" when he hears it.
"But now I can listen to it in public," he said. "When I was playing and driving into the park, there was no chance I was going to let somebody hear me in the car listening to 'Hells Bells' on my drive into the yard. Especially not a teammate!"
Vladimir Guerrero: Halo again
Guerrero is the only one of this year's entrants who had a bit of a cap conundrum on his hands when he was elected into the Hall. And even though he ultimately selected the Angels -- becoming the first player to officially represent that franchise in the Hall -- when walking the streets of Cooperstown this weekend, one can find quite a few fans in Guerrero Expos jerseys and shirts (Montreal sits about 250 miles to the north).
When Guerrero's Twitter account posted a poll in 2016 asking who he should represent should he be elected, 81 percent of respondents voted Expos.
"I didn't see the Twitter results, but it was still a tough decision all the way to the end because of what Montreal meant to me and coming to the big leagues as an Expo for the first time," Guerrero said through interpreter Jose Mota. "I'm going to say some things about Montreal in my speech, yes. But I've been saying for the last year or so that because the Expos don't [still] exist, that made my decision easier."
In eight seasons with the Expos, he slashed .323/.390/.588 with 234 homers and 702 RBIs in 1,004 games. In six seasons with the Angels, he had a .319/.381/.546 slash line with 173 homers and 616 RBIs in 846 games. Guerrero was a four-time All-Star for both clubs, but never reached the postseason with the Expos, who signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1993.
"The significance is that my six years with the Angels, we went to the playoffs five times," Guerrero said. "To me, that kind of sealed it, because of the importance winning played in that role and because of my teammates from that period. It was very special."
But Guerrero still holds a special place in his heart for his Expos mates. He said he was particularly pleased to be here alongside fellow Hall of Famer and former roommate Pedro Martinez.
Alan Trammell: The Spark behind the flame
Trammell's team association is obviously much more clear-cut. As Jim Leyland recently said, "When your kid started the first grade, Alan Trammell was the shortstop for the Tigers. When your kid graduated from college, he was still the ... shortstop for the Tigers. That's pretty good, you know?"
But Trammell wanted to make something clear: Sparky Anderson, though depicted in a Cincinnati cap on his plaque, spent his fair share of time in Detroit, too.
"He was with us for 17 years and with Cincinnati for nine," Trammell said. "The reason I say that is I just want people to know he was with us for that long. People remember him for the Big Red Machine. I get it, I understand it. But I want people to know that he was with us longer."
Trammell imagined what Anderson, who passed away in 2010, would have thought about two members of his '84 World Series title team represented in this year's Hall class. He could close his eyes and see the exuberant Anderson wagging his finger at him and Jack Morris -- "in a good way."
"As you get older, you appreciate things a little differently," Trammell said. "He knew exactly what he was doing and was just trying to mold us the right way."
They molded, all right. And Trammell is pleased that one of the great Tiger teams of all time is finally represented in the Hall by not only the manager with that "C" on his plaque, but also by two Detroit "D's".
"I think it solidifies our era, especially '84," Trammell said. "That was our year. It was our dream year."
Jack Morris: Finish what you start
Anderson was known as "Captain Hook" for his aggressive use of the bullpen, but that moniker didn't apply to his handling of Morris, whose road to 175 complete games in 527 career starts was paved by Sparky.
"I could go on for hours about our conversations," Morris said. "But he certainly demanded me to learn how to go deep because that was my role. He left me out there to rot twice one year, and it took me all year to get my ERA under 4. But it taught me an unbelievable lesson. There's nowhere to hide. Getting your butt beat on a mound in front of 35,000 people is the worst thing in the world. So figure it out."
The "things were different in my day" axiom is often trotted out by the old-timers. But the game's current adaptation to the so-called "third time through the order penalty" and the revolutionary use of relievers as "openers" by the Rays this season certainly differentiates the modern game from Morris' time. And Morris, as you might imagine, takes issue with young pitchers not getting as much opportunity to take their lumps later in games.
"Pitchers have to go through a failure wall in order to know what success is," he said. "If you don't allow them to fail, they're never going to get through that wall. You've got to let them bang into it a little bit to figure out if they're going to make it or not. Sparky forced me to make it."
Morris made 515 consecutive starts -- an American League record at the time of his retirement. His 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when he refused to leave the mound, is his seminal moment, but it was part of his larger body of work as a workhorse.
"All the guys I admired -- guys who are literally going to be sitting behind me on the stage [Sunday] -- I wanted to emulate," Morris said. "I wanted to be in that group. You look at the complete games most of those guys had, and I look like a little kid. Cy Young had 750 complete games. I didn't even throw that many games!"
Chipper Jones: Oh, baby
The old war stories are always enthralling. But there's a real-life story taking shape at this year's festivities that is pretty interesting in its own right. Jones' wife, Taylor, is due to give birth to the couple's second child (a boy who will appropriately be named Cooper) on Monday.
Something like that makes even a Hall of Fame speech secondary.
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"I'm more nervous about the baby," Jones said. "I'm more nervous about Taylor, trust me. ... I'm a nervous wreck that she is here. I tried to keep her at home just because I was worried about the travel. I'm happy to say she is still with child and hopefully can hold out a couple more days."
The boy will be named Cooper regardless of where he's born. But what if he's born during the speech?
"They asked me if I wanted to record my speech prior," Jones said. "I said, 'She is going to be in labor for a while.' If she's in the hospital, I can shoot right over, get it over and then get back. I'm hitting leadoff [at the ceremony]. They want to get me on the stage and get me off."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.