April 10, 2013
It’s been nearly a week since I found out that Lima’s own Brad Komminsk was out of baseball, and I am still in a state of shock.
After 35 years either playing pro ball or coaching it, Komminsk is now home in Worthington.
The Baltimore Orioles didn’t renew his contract as a minor league hitting instructor and after a few interviews with other organizations, Komminsk decided now was the time to leave the game and be near his family.
“It’s a good time to be around (home). My kids are ages 18,16 and 14 and they are all involved in sports, so it’s going to be great to be around all the time now,” he told me last week on Sportstalk with Koza.
Komminsk turned 52 years young last week. It seems only yesterday he was a three-sport standout at Shawnee High School, and at age 18 was taken as the fourth player overall in the 1979 baseball amateur draft — the first selection of the Atlanta Braves.
I didn’t get to Lima until September 1980, but I had heard the amazing high school stories about Komminsk, and what an incredible athlete he was. I then began following his baseball career as he moved up the ladder in the Braves minor league organization.
He was a star at every minor league level and eventually made his major league debut Aug. 14, 1983.
But Komminsk’s minor league success didn’t carry over into the major league level.
The lofty expectations placed on Komminsk being the fourth overall player taken in the ’79 draft — being labeled as the Braves next Dale Murphy — were just too much to live up to.
Komminsk would later be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, and that would be the start of a multiple team major league career for the Lima native.
I loved it when he was with the Indians in 1989. I went to Cleveland Municipal Stadium several times that summer to watch him play for my favorite team.
And as an Indian, Komminsk made CNN’s “play of the year” category when he leapt over the wall in Baltimore trying to rob Cal Ripken of a home run.
“That’s how a lot of people remember me. I made the play tougher than it actually was. But people think I made the catch, so I tell people yeah I did,” he said, laughing as we reminisced last week.
Komminsk would on to play with six major league teams, total. His last major league at-bat came with the Oakland A’s in October of ’91.
A couple years later, Komminsk played pro ball in Italy before returning home to begin what turned out to be a stellar minor league managerial and coaching career.
He first coached in the minor leagues in 1997. Komminsk was named manager of the year twice in the Indians organization. It looked like he was moving up the managerial ladder quickly, but for some reason Komminsk was bypassed when the Indians’ Triple A job opened and eventually Komminsk decided to go elsewhere.
Later, Komminsk was named manager of the year in 2008 as the skipper of the Bowie Bay Sox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
But now he is out of baseball.
— A star player in the minor leagues who didn’t carry over into the major leagues.
— A star minor league manager, who never got the opportunity to coach at the major league level.
Each story surprising by themselves, but together it’s mind-boggling to many.
“Brad’s physical tools, well, he had it all. He had the makings of an outstanding major league player,” said long-time major league scout Jim Martz, who helped Komminsk when he was first drafted by Atlanta, and traveled with him to sign his first pro contract.
“It is just a shame that he wasn’t able to fulfill that potential. But that being said, as a player and a coach, he gave a lot to the game.”
“Honestly, I enjoyed my time in the game, no complaints,” Komminsk told me. “Sure I wish I could have done better and had more time. But I cherished the time I did have, a lot of great players. It was a great ride.”
A 35-year pro baseball career. How many people get to experience that?
It was a heck of a ride.
Loved the ride with you, Brad.
And I think the old scout Martz summed up Komminsk the best when he said, “a credit to his family, to his friends and to baseball. We are proud of his successes.”
Amen, brother, Amen.
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