Tom Williams: The Volunteer Coach

Photo by Andrew A

When Tom Williams bought his first house with his wife Delora in Simi Valley on Hearst Dr.; it happened to be across the street from some corn fields. What the 65 year-old Williams hadn’t realized when he bought the house in the early 80’s was that one of his neighbors coincidentally was also named Tom Williams. Known to his neighbors as Corn-pickin’ Tom, he farmed the land across the street and Williams would get calls asking for bushels of corn from Corn-pickin’ Tom. Instead of ignoring the calls, Williams took down the messages and gave them to corn-pickin’ Tom whenever he could.

Eventually, the fields that corn-pickin’ Tom farmed became the baseball fields for the Simi Valley Baseball League (SVBL) which Williams would later volunteer to coach once his sons Paul and Mike grew older.

“There’s very few people I come across that I could do without,” said Williams. As a baseball coach to kids ranging in ages from 9–19 he knows that every player has potential that they have not tapped into for whatever reason and team moms like Sandra Dorr, a paralegal whose son Anthony had played for Williams and her younger son Chris who played for him as a 16 year-old, recognized this after they played on his team.

“Tom is bigger than life,” Dorr said. “I give him credit for giving both of my boys the confidence they needed. Especially, my younger one. He got him out of his shell to be a pitcher, catcher, [and] utility person on the team. He knows his stuff on the field. He’s a very personable guy and I can’t say enough about him.”

A former player Sean Alvord, had witnessed his impact on himself when he played with Williams.

“Tom impacted me in my youth as a mentor,” said Sean Alvord, a former player of Williams. “[He] was kind and extremely helpful and supportive of improvement of all of his players.”

It’s surprising to know that Williams knew little at first about the sport as he barely knew the game when his son Paul first started playing and hadn’t played much when he was a kid.

“I’ll just sit and relax and be a spectator,” he said; hopeful that his son would gain self-esteem, listen and learn how to work well with others.

Normally, dads volunteer to be coaches for their kid(s) team but this time a dad was picked at random by the league since no one volunteered and the new coach desperately needed help as a result.

After the first game the coach asked if anyone had any experience in baseball and would like to help out. Williams was the only one who raised his hand; from that day forward he began to build a long legacy as a volunteer with SVBL and various other leagues.

Throughout 28 years with the league, he had been an instrumental part of the organization in various areas and has filled many roles and eventually was recognized for his value to the community by becoming president for two years in 2007 and 2008.

Williams left the league when a change of leadership resulted in no teams left available for him to coach.

“For somebody like myself who has spent so much time there … unfortunately there is not that many people around now that knew what it used to be,” he said. “I still remain hopeful that things will change. But I don’t plan on going back.”

For its part, SVBL has changed and evolved over the years and continues to be a thriving institution in Simi Valley.

Currently, Williams is a Cal Ripken commissioner for the Babe Ruth League in Northern Los Angeles and Ventura County where he coordinates with the various leagues as well as finding new leagues to join. He coaches for the ABDG (Amateur Baseball Development Group), a non-profit foundation league created by former Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia that allows kids ages 14–23 to play baseball outside of high school. These are kids and adults that for some reason or another couldn’t play on their high school team and are provided a safe and fun place to competitively play.

Williams’ humble beginnings with his wife and kids in Simi Valley gave him the perspective that shapes his life to this day. He continues to put every ounce of energy he has into helping make the lives of kids more whole and he does so even when they aren’t playing for him by staying in contact with former players, dads and moms.

Bill Down, one of the fathers whose son Chris played for Williams said that “he considers the kids, friends,” and what drew his son Chris to play for Williams was that he showed concern for each and every player. As a coach he makes sure to go out of his way to comment on something good a player does, no matter how small or insignificant it may be.

“Tom’s influence on a lot of the kids kind of turns them around a little bit,” Down said. “It kind of grounds them where, they were just attitudes before and a lot of places you play they just don’t put up with it at this age.”

Williams exemplifies a person who cares for others inside and out of his community. Baseball was where he developed relationships with parents and their kids. He did so with a coaching style that puts a focus on winning, but just as equally emphasizes improvement of the player through building confidence, leadership and self-reliance.

As for Williams effect on the baseball community and the community at-large:

“I don’t think my son would be playing if it weren’t for Tom,” said Down. “Tom saw something in him that he didn’t see for himself.”

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