Ocean Springs to honor coastal baseball icon “Coach Tom” with on-field dedication

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OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi — When he arrived in 1975, fresh out of Delta State University, armed with his teaching degree and four years as a catcher for Statesmen head coach Dave “Boo “Ferris, Steve Tomaszewski could hardly imagine what was in store for him.

Tomaszewski had been hired to take over Ocean Springs High School’s baseball program, which at the time was little more than an afterthought, remaining in the shadow of Hugh Pepper’s Greyhound juggernaut football teams. .

“When I got here we had (for a dugout) a bench with a four-foot chain-link fence in front and an old Little League scoreboard with the numbers hanging on it,” he recalled recently. “There was only a fence for a safety net, nothing closed it, so we had to draw white lines for the ball to pass, it was a dead ball.”

Today, some 47 years later, the Greyhound baseball facility is one of the finest on the coast, thanks in large part to the 18 years that Tomaszewski – affectionately nicknamed “Coach Tom” for most – has devoted building the program from the ground up. up, literally.

Year-round, Tomaszewski could be found on the baseball field, pulling weeds, shoveling dirt on the infield, raking dirt. It didn’t matter if it was cold in January or hot in July, he was there.

Now, the field where he spent so much time and effort creating a baseball program will soon bear his name, as the Ocean Springs School Board is expected in the coming weeks to approve the baseball field’s dedication to Steve Tomaszewski, in response to community petitions.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Tomaszewski The Mississippi Press this week. “There are not enough adjectives. I am humbled, I am proud, I am honored. I’m thrilled to death that they thought of me and did this.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that Tomaszewski’s accomplishments were limited to improving baseball facilities. In his 18-year career, he guided the Greyhounds to five Gulf Coast Conference titles, two District 8AA championships and a Division 7-5A championship in 1993, his final season which saw him lead the Greyhounds to a 23-win season and the Southern Departmental Finals.

From 1979 to 1984, Tomaszewski guided Ocean Springs to its greatest period of sustained excellence in baseball, when each team won no less than 20 games and the 1981 and 1982 teams each won 25 games. That 1981 team would advance to the Southern State Finals, and in 1982 Tomaszewski guided the Hounds to the first of their two state baseball championships.

He was inducted into the Ocean Springs Sports Hall of Fame, a member of the Hall’s inaugural class in 2018.

Tomaszewski will be the first to say he didn’t do all of this alone.

“We’ve had great players here from day one,” he said. “Bob Harwood, Doug Morrison – those guys helped the younger guys early on. Tommy Walker, who’s now the head coach, he was on one of my first teams.

He would mention other Greyhound greats including Stuart Weidie, Kenny Hudson, Scottie and Mark Worsham, Lynn Carroll, James Brune, Kiley Hughes and others.

“We had a lot of success, but I had a lot of talent to work with, no doubt,” Tomaszewski said. “I have been blessed. And for getting the job right out of college, it worked out fine for me, I guess.

And those blessings include his wife of 48 years, Sallie.

“She was so understanding and supportive,” Tomaszewski said. “She knew I wanted to be a coach and supported me. She went to a lot of games. She formed lifelong friendships with some of the parents.

Tomaszewski remembers the birth of the first of their two children, Rae, and longtime coach and administrator Don Fairley, who had to replace Coach Tom at a game so he could be on the ‘hospital.

“Sallie was in labor so I went to the hospital,” he recalled. “I got there, nothing yet, so I said ‘Okay, I’ll be right back.’ Came back Donnie said everything was fine so I left Back at the hospital we had the baby and the great thing is all the kids showed up, lots of hype at the hospital.

“But you have to have a supportive spouse,” Tomaszewski added. “Thank God I got this.”

The success of its teams in the field has made it a little easier to obtain funding to gradually improve the facilities, but it has never been as simple as asking for a check.

Tomaszewski remembered a few fathers who helped build the first primitive baseball field press, only to have it destroyed by a hurricane. When the insurance money arrived, the superintendent at the time had good news and bad news.

“Mr. Curry said, ‘We’ll give you the money for a new press box, but you’ll have to build it yourself.’

So, with the help of longtime school administrator Greg Denyer and fellow Greyhound coach Mike Tosch, they did just that.

“We kept making improvements as we went along,” Tomaszewski said. “It took a while, but we kept working on it. I was the kind of guy that I wanted my pitch to be ready all year round. I’d be there shooting for weeks, putting dirt in, so anytime the kids wanted to come onto the field or kick a little, they could.

For years there was no exterior fence for the stadium, only the chain-link fence that separated the pitch from the lumber yard and to the east and the train tracks to the north. The fence joined in a corner of the field at dead center – 510 feet from home plate.

“Mr. Steve had a garden there,” Tomaszewski said, recalling a school maintenance man who worked at the stadium. “Sometimes someone would hit a rolling ball there. children stole his vegetables.

These days, Tomaszewski can often be found at MGM Park watching Biloxi Shuckers games, frequently holding ground with other baseball men like Barry Lyons and former DSU teammate Joe Hubal. But even all these years later, and despite all the improvements to the baseball facility over the decades, Tomaszewski, true to the baseball man that he is, would love to see more for the Ocean Springs program.

“It’s all come a long way since 1975,” he said. “My hope for them now is to get a grass infield. It would help them with the weather and the practice. They have so many teams using that area now – grade 7, grade 8, grade 9, plus the junior varsty and varsity. That’s a lot of wear and tear in the field.

Whether the baseball field will ever have a grass infield remains to be seen, but what is certain is that there will soon be a new sign somewhere in the outfield that reads “Steve Tomaszewski Field.”

Superintendent Bonita Coleman said she plans to make a presentation on the field dedication at an upcoming school board meeting, to include a date for the dedication and groundbreaking, which will likely coincide with the start of the school season 2023.

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