Favorite athlete: Bryce Harper
Favorite team: Philadelphia Phillies
Favorite memory competing in sports: Hitting back to back homeruns in my first two at bats in Cooperstown
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I completely missed a fly ball, and it hit me above my right eye. Had to get stitches.
Music on playlist: Country Music
Future plans: Undecided
Words to live by: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
One goal before turning 30: Have a good job where I can make decent money.
One thing people don’t know about me: I love to work with computers. I want to build my own PC.
By GORDON GLANTZ
It just sounds like a baseball name, doesn’t it?
Sounds like a classic old-time player from the Philadelphia Athletics or Boston Braves who you don’t learn all about until a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Oddly enough, Hatboro-Horsham senior Jimmy Tooley has been to Cooperstown and marked the visit with back-to-back home runs (over 200-foot fences) as a 12U Horsham travel player.
“That was a long, long time ago,” he recalled. “The first at-bat I had up there, I hit a home run. Then came the second at-bat. I came up and did the same thing again. I wasn’t expecting it all. It was just awesome.”
At Hatboro-Horsham, Tooley has steadily improved since earning a varsity spot as a freshman.
This past season, one that began in concussion protocol after a collision in practice with teammate and co-captain Noah Gremo, the pitcher/center fielder is slotted in the cleanup spot and has hit just under .300 with an OBP over .500 and 16 RBI and 12 steals.
“To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to get to the 4-hole,” said Tooley. “I know they switched around the lineup one game and I was in the fourth spot. I believe it’s mostly because I’m consistent.
“I don’t need to put the ball over the fence to score runs.”
Tooley is also the ace pitcher, currently 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA. In 55 innings, he has struck out 70 batters while walking just 16 and allowed 32 hits as the Hatters look ahead to the PIAA state playoffs.
“We’re still in it,” he said. “We’re still trying to make the most of it.”
But, while numbers are important vital signs of a baseball player’s well-being, there is a lot more to the kid with the Hall of Fame name than statistics.
He has a Hall of Fame heart.
“He is mature beyond his years, and has been unbelievable on the field for us this year,” said H-H coach Pete Moore. “As good as he is one the field, he’s even a better person off the field.”
Hello Bull, Meet Horns
What Moore will remember most is the way Tooley stepped up and took charge and organized workouts when COVID-19 left the season hanging in the balance.
“He is a great leader for our program and did a tremendous job in a difficult time this year when we were not allowed to have team workouts,” said Moore. “He and another guy organized some workouts for the guys so that they could get some work in before we started it up.”
Tooley said he and teammate Zach Greenberg, an employee at All-Star Academy in Warminster, organized the unofficial team workouts.
“We would go there every year in the fall for the high school team,” said Tooley. “Due to high school restrictions and everything else like that, they weren’t allowing it. But, nothing was stopping us from going as a group of friends, or going as a group of individuals who just happen to show up at the same time at this place. That’s what we started doing.
“We rented out the facility when we knew nobody was going to be there, at like 9 o’clock at night on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No one else was there, so we had the whole facility to ourselves.”
Tooley added that the fact that the Hatters are still alive now could be attributed to putting in the work when perhaps not all the other teams were doing so.
“I feel like that really helped us,” said Tooley, who gave up soccer early in his high school career to focus solely on baseball. “We didn’t have a preseason, or even a fall season. We just felt it was something we could do to get ready for the season.”
As for pitching, Tooley initially had such a hard time adjusting when the mounds when from 60 feet to 90 at 14U that he was close to giving up on that part of his game.
Instead, he sought help from guru Seth Greene.
“He was my pitching coach, and even coached a little bit at the high school when he had the opportunity,” said Tooley. “I was doing so badly at one point when I first moved up to the 60-90 big field. I was ready to give up. I couldn’t throw strikes, and I’ve always been that guy who throws strikes. Then, I went and found him. He kind of brought me back, and now I am where I today.”
And where he is today – and in spite of raw numbers that would suggest he is a power pitcher – is as a self-described pitcher who knows how to work ahead in the count.
“This year, with my stats, I know they show a ton of strikeouts, but I don’t consider myself to be a strikeout pitcher,” said Tooley. “I use the fast ball. I get ahead in the count. I can come back with either the change up or the curve ball. Both pitches I can throw for strikes. I have so much comfort with them.”
And he also has a comfort level in his fielders.
“I just go out there and throw,” he said. “If they hit it, they hit it. That’s why I have the seven guys behind me. That’s why I’m able to strike guys out. I’m able to throw strikes, so I get the strikeouts that go along with it.”
In The Midnight Hour
Despite his steady improvements each year, Tooley still finds himself entering June still looking for a college program,
With losing his junior year due to the season being nullified by COVID-19, he has not had the necessary exposure to Division I schools, many of whom retained seniors an extra year because of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, he wants to be pushed more than he would at a Division II or III school. There are offers out there, but none to his liking.
“Getting that exposure has been really difficult,” said Tooley, a solid student who gets A’s and B’s in all of his classes and who was a member of Link Crew, which orients incoming freshmen. “I’ve tried reaching out to schools, and I have had some contact. I still have so many options. I want to find that one school where I’m going to be challenged athletically. I don’t want to go in somewhere and start every game right away.
“I want to be pushed and become a better player. That’s where I’m finding it difficult. A lot of the D-1 or D-II programs that I may be able to play for are already filling all their roster spots. These schools are, like, ‘Hey, we love you but our roster is already filled.’”
First objective, though, is to finish strong with the Hatters. Then, with a self-imposed deadline of June 30, he hopes to make a decision.
“I feel like it’s a little frustrating, trying to find a school,” Tooley said. “At the same time, I have to stay focused on the ‘now,’ get high school baseball done. After that, I’ll become really focused. I mean, I definitely want to go to college, so that’s when I’m really going to start pushing to get into the right school and go where I want to go.”
The Waiting Game
Because his college situation is up in the air, Tooley is unclear if he will go in as an outfielder or a pitcher or both.
He’s 6-feet tall and is a southpaw but brings a lot to the table as a line drive hitter who can draw walks and steal bases.
“I’ve thought about that a lot,” he said. “I’m not real short. I know I can hit a little bit. I’m pretty quick in the bases. For me, I wouldn’t want to give it up.”
His present plan is to go into college as a two-way player and see where it goes from there.
He explained: “If they say, ‘We only need you to be a pitcher. We don’t want you to get hurt.’ Then that’s when I’ll put the bat down and focus just on pitching. But I really don’t want to make that decision. I want to do both, and I want to get onto the field any way that I can. Be able to do both is only going to help me in the long run.”
Moore says that he has no doubts that Tooley will find a landing spot that fits and can continue his baseball odyssey. It is bittersweet for the coach.
“He’s been a pleasure to coach for four years,” said Moore. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like next year without having him there.”
When it comes to thanking those who helped, Moore was the first person Tooley mentioned. The two have gone back a long way, well-beyond these last four years at H-H.
“I have to thank coach Moore,” he said. “Not just for the year that we have had so far, but for the last four years of baseball. It’s just been awesome. I couldn’t have asked for anybody better to do it with. I know he has been there for a long time. My dad even coached with him as well. It’s been so much fun. Coach Moore actually taught me back in fifth grade. He was my fifth grade math teacher. I have known him for a long time. I knew I was going to play for him one day, and it happened to be for four years.”