EVANSTON — America’s pastime is definitely one of Evanston Outlaw coach Chad Thompson’s passions.
“I grew up loving the game and still do,” Thompson told the Herald.
This is his first year being one of three Outlaws coaches, moving up from the Trappers program last year, rising through the ranks of the Evanston Parks and Recreation youth baseball divisions in previous seasons.
Thompson grew up in Indian River, Michigan, and began playing baseball at an early age.
“I think I was like 5 or 6 when I started,” Thompson told the Herald.
“After a season or two of T-ball, we were playing real baseball and throwing at each other.”
Thompson also played football and basketball from his youth through high school playing days and while he really liked those other two sports, he said he loved baseball. Baseball was a summertime sport for Thompson, but also a high school sport in the spring of his prep career.
“Baseball became my passion, as far as sports were concerned,” Thompson said. “Football and basketball were a lot of fun, but I loved baseball and still do.”
Hailing from upper Michigan, it’s no surprise that Thompson is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan.
“I grew up watching Jack Morris and it was great when the Tigers won the World Series in 1984, even though they haven’t done much for me lately,” Thompson quipped.
Thompson attended Michigan State upon graduation from high school instead of going to a smaller school where he could have continued his baseball career.
“That is one of my biggest regrets,” he explained. “That’s what I try to impart on these young men I have the pleasure of coaching,” Thompson continued.
“There’s plenty of time to get your degree, to work and everything else. But if you love this game and have an opportunity to extend your playing days, take it,” he said, emphatically.
Thompson and his fellow Outlaw coaches, Jason Lloyd and Jason Mitchell, all have sons playing for the American Legion AA team.
He spokes of the pros and perils of coaching one’s offspring.
“On the plus side, I have the best seat in the house to watch my son play the game I love,” Thompson shared.
Conversely, there will be fans who will see nepotism at play, believing preferential treatment is given to the sons of a coaching staff. Thompson sees it in opposite fashion.
“I think Brenden will attest to the fact that I’m tougher on him and demand more of him than I do the other players,” Thompson said of his coaching relationship with his son.
The assistant coach is thankful to have the other coaches who are in the exact same circumstances.
“It’s a nice trade-off, as we can say to one another, ‘I need you to talk to my son,’” Thompson said.
“More often than not, it will work out a lot better that way. Things won’t get as personal or unfair to our own kids as they might if we didn’t utilize that strategy.”
The Outlaw coaching staff differs from most around the state and region in one major way. Most American Legion coaches are paid, whereas the Evanston coaches are not.
“We’re a self-funded organization and we do this because of our love of the game and our love for the kids,” Thompson said.
The coach noted that most, if not all, of his vacation days from work, are spent in conjunction with the Outlaws baseball program.
“When the season ends, I’m done. I have no vacation time remaining,” Thompson stated.
“But, you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”