(Youth1 Baseball) – Through 20 magnificent years of the Dallas Tigers, the organization won 16 National Championships, including 5 national championships by his 2005 Dallas Tigers team that was coached by Tommy Hernandez himself.
Tommy spent most of his childhood career in El Paso, Texas playing baseball. He played for several colleges including Lubbock Christian University and Texas Tech. Tommy Hernandez was drafted by the Texas Rangers and spent two years in the minor leagues as their catcher.
It would be the early days in 1993 when the future skipper made perhaps one of the most memorable decisions in his career. When he returned to his hometown of Texas, he was met by a group of 11-12 boys whose enjoyment was playing baseball and Tommy accepted the duty as coach.
The next two decades held respectable milestones for Dallas. Coach Hernandez led his team to their first victory in March of 1993 and reached his 100th win in 1995. Hernandez currently has 1,472 wins as of 2012.
Tommy Hernandez pays credit to some of the individuals who helped guide him in the path of early success. Shortly after leaving the minors, Hernandez helped coach the Trinity Christian Academy that was run by Steve Adair who fully provided the resources of an indoor baseball facility.
“We trained the kids and it was great working with him, I owe him a lot. In the public, he was golden”, Coach Hernandez said of Steve Adair’s commitment to youth player development.
Upon starting the Tigers, a fellow by the name of Ronnie Ortegon joined the organization for two years. As a 2-3 time state champion coach, Ortegon agreed to work with the young Tigers as the hitting instructor and helped develop the early offensive form.
After a few years of establishment, the mark that really put the Dallas Tigers on the map was winning the Jr. Olympics in 1998 with only 12 players on the squad.
Tommy Hernandez spoke about some of the notable individuals that grew up in the organization including Michael Hollimon who was part of the original 11U Tigers team that began in 1993.
“He stayed with the team the entire time and played his last season on the 18U team. He had several injuries, but he always fought through them”, Coach Hernandez praised.
Michael Hollimon was selected to the University of Texas as well as the 32nd round in the LA Dodgers organization.
The Tigers saw the dawning of many prominent players that made it to the Major Leagues as well as division 1 teams. They included Curtis Thigpen, Zach Duke, Austin Jackson, as the current ace of the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw. Quarterback Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions grew up in the Tigers organization.
Clayton Kershaw was selected in the first round draft to the LA Dodgers. Coach Hernandez has memories of the current Major League star.
“He was very coachable, and a tough kid. He never wanted to lose”.
Kershaw and Stafford were just a few of the main group of kids that were only of age 10 or 11 when they first started on the squad. (pictured: Clayton Kershaw top row 1st from left, Matthew Stafford top row 2nd from right).
Others included Evan Gattis who was selected into the Atlanta Braves minor league team in 2004. Preston Paramore was picked in the third round by the Oakland A’s in 2005, and Shawn Tolleson advanced to Baylor University and drafted to the Dodgers in recent 2011.
Along with many of the successes, Coach Hernandez and the Tigers also went through times of adversity especially with the loss of one of their own in a tragic accident, Haskell Foster at age 16 in 1997. Another moment was when the Tigers had also lost a father from the 11U squad due to cancer.
“Haskell Foster taught a lesson about life, baseball is not all that there is, the kids and everyone was devastated. You cannot take things for granted, and it made me a better person”, Hernandez said of the tragic events that players, parents, and coaches remember for a long time.
Despite the tough challenges that Tommy Hernandez and the Tigers faced, his successes built strong relationship with the team over the years. Hernandez tips his hat to the coaches and parents that greatly support and contribute to the benefit and well-being of the team. The significance of the parents in the decades was al based on focus that remained with training the youth athletes and teaching them the proper way to approach the game. The organization always dedicated itself to preparing the youth for high school and even college.
Tommy Hernandez reminisced and reflected on one of his proudest moments of his coaching career when his two boys Lawrence(20) and Calvin(17) along with his three stepsons started in the club. He got his children involved in the tournaments as well as travel ball. A highlight of his personal life was when he was remarried eight years ago to Donna Hernandez whose four kids surprisingly also played baseball for a number of State Universities. Coach Hernandez’ niece also leads a softball team in one of the leagues.
After 20 brilliant years of success, Tommy Hernandez responded to honors of congratulations on an outstanding lifetime mark, and reflections of the past two decades. “I was melting at how much our organization grew. Chad Polk has done such a great job with digital marketing. In the past 20 years, I haven’t changed a thing. We’re not going to change much”, Coach Hernandez said about his teams and organization.
After 20 years of glory and excellence, Tommy Hernandez looks to the next decade, “we have an opportunity hopefully for another 20 years”.