If I’m wrong about Tommy Hanson, I’ve got a feeling I’m gonna have a lot of company. And leading the parade will be Frank Wren, now feeling the heat easing off from his clearing the Braves roster of the other Tommy (Glavine) to make room for this Tommy.
Get in line to join in the apologia. Not to say that just because this tree of a kid has beaten the Yankees and the Red Sox in a row that they’re dusting off a corner of Cooperstown to make room for him.
There is a lot of pitcher in that body of his. In the first place, he’s constructed like a pitcher, but even more than that, he manages his game like a pitcher who has been doing it since Cy Young. Six-feet-six, lean and lithe, expressionless, never giving vent to distress and equipped with an above-standard collection of pitches in his arsenal. But, let’s get back to the beginning.
He came out of a community college in Riverside, Calif., and could have had a scholarship to Arizona State. Here the Braves intervened. They drafted him, top-line, you’d say. Instead, they were able to hold off until the 22nd round before they moved. Twenty-second round, mind you. This is spot usually reserved for afterthoughts, maybe a nephew of the owner. Still, the Braves thought enough of Hanson to give him a $350,000 bonus to sign.
Now you wonder how a 22nd-round draftee could wind up beating both the Yankees and the Red Sox, one after the other, four years later. And if he was that good, how was it that he was still there after 21 rounds?
By that time he was in a community college, where he had picked up on some of the benefits of the breaking ball. And there, too, he came under the discerning eye of the Braves’ area scout, Tom Battista. It was Battista who would sign him, at the same time cementing his position in the Braves’ scouting order in Southern California. By springtime this year, Hanson had vaulted to the head of the list among Braves prospects, as rated by Baseball America, and fourth best in all the majors.
From 22nd-round draftee to No. 1 prospect. Somewhere in between, Hanson had made some new discoveries in the art of pitching. It is generally accepted that he had the good fortune to land on the farm at Myrtle Beach and there came under the patient hand of Bruce Dal Canton, who, sorry to say, passed away last fall. Dal Canton had once pitched for the Braves, but for 10 years had been pitching coach on the coastal farm club.
“Tommy just never had a good breaking ball until he was in college,” Roy Clark, director of the farm system, said. “For a long time we’ve said that if we could hold a kid together long enough to get him to Bruce, he could turn him into a pitcher.”
So there was a noticeable uptick in strikeouts, and Hanson, the thrower became Hanson, the pitcher. He had a no-hitter at Mississippi last year, but it was in the Arizona Fall league that he found his game.
His record was 5-0, and he was dominant in every pitching department, and with an earned-run average of 0.63, he was the only pitcher in the 17 years of the league who won the most valuable award. So he was shined and polished, ready for the Braves, except for the brief detour to Gwinnett.
He survived the dust storm that caught Wren in the middle when the GM rejected Glavine to make room for Hanson, but not to be presumptuous, Hanson still keeps his place in Lawrenceville and commutes.
“Just didn’t want to do all that moving around,” he said. Offhand, I’ll be presumptuous enough to suggest that Hanson’s moving days are over.