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Blog Posted in avatar   Dorothy Thompson's Blog

Interview with Tom Roy, author of ‘Released’

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By Dorothy Thompson
Posted Feb 1, 2011 in Religion
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Tom Roy is the President and Founder of UPI. After a very brief time in the S.F. Giants organization, Tom went on to a career in radio, taking his first job in West Virginia. Shortly after that he felt the call of God to pursue a college degree and enrolled at Grace College in Winona Lake, IN. Upon completion of that degree he took a head baseball coaching job at a local high school for 3 years. He continued in that profession, coaching also at the college level for 9 years.
In 1979 God put UPI on Tom and Carins hearts. In 1980 the ministry became a reality. Tom ministered to players thru chapels, in camps and clinics for 28 years. He has had the honor to serve Christ through UPI in many venues, including speaking and conducting clinics in over 60 countries.
Tom and Carin reside in Winona Lake, Indiana and have two daughters, Amy and Lindsay, and 6 grandchildren (Hannah, Luke, Faith, Tommy, Sam and Lainey).
In January of 2008 he assumed the role of President/Founder and now finds himself working with the Advancement of the ministry as well as staying in contact with “UPI alumni” and caring for ballplayers through counseling.
His latest book is [i]Released[/i].
You can visit Tom Roy’s website at [url=http://www.tomroy.org]www.tomroy.org.
Thank you for this interview, Tom. I’d love to hear more about the Hank Aaron Indiana blizzard story. What happened?
It was January 1978, during one of the worst blizzards in Indiana history. The snow had blown a large drift against our front door, roads were closed and most businesses were shut down. I quickly realized I wasn’t going anywhere.
At that time I worked for Huntington College (Now Huntington University) in the Admissions office. I was also the pitching coach for the baseball team. Days were long and my travel schedule was packed. It was nice to have an unscheduled day off!
As an assistant coach, I had suggested a kick off event for our upcoming baseball season. We needed to do something to show people that basketball was not the only sport played in Indiana! Huntington’s baseball team was a powerhouse in the state at the NAIA level and Head Coach Jim Wilson and I wanted to raise interest in the community. We decided a named celebrity would draw a crowd. My responsibility was to come up with the celebrity!
I had no real contacts inside major league baseball–just a keen interest in the game. How would I find a baseball celebrity that would come to Huntington, Indiana? I began making a list of celebrities, including Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Hank Aaron, the home run king of the Braves. I sent out letters to the teams of these ‘stars of the past.’
"Hon, Hank Aaron is on the phone for you," my wife repeated after I had not responded to her the first time. Carin was not one for practical jokes, so I thought maybe she heard the name wrong. I got up from my comfortable chair and took my time getting to the phone.
"Hello, this is Tom Roy," I said.
"Yes, Tom. This is Hank Aaron. I received your letter and was calling about the speaking possibility at Huntington College." It really was Hank Aaron, my childhood hero!
Growing up in the small town of Grafton, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee, I knew who Hank Aaron was! I remembered many evenings with my ear to the transistor radio, listening to the Milwaukee Braves. The Braves were Milwaukee’s team and Hank Aaron was the star!
In 1978, Mr. Aaron had retired from baseball as an active player and had signed a contract as a spokesman for the Magnavox Corporation, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, about 25 miles from Huntington.
As Mr. Aaron was mentioning that he traveled to Fort Wayne often, I gathered myself enough to discuss details, things like dates, location and honorarium. Hank Aaron agreed to be our speaker! Needless to say, I was pumped! I called Coach Wilson to tell him the news and we both knew that something special had just happened.
A few months later I was standing in the Fort Wayne airport waiting for the arrival of my hero. When he walked off the plane I was stunned…he showed up! I tried to act natural as we waited for his bag and loaded the car for the short drive to his hotel. On the outside I hope I appeared calm. But on the inside I was going 100 MPH!
The book then outlines the story of me getting lost from the airport to his hotel, sharing my faith with him and story of the next two days together. It was a turning point for me in sharing my faith.
Your book, Released, is not only about the development of Christian outreach to ball players, but is about the culture of professional baseball players and in particular the life of a pro baseball player’s wife? Can you tell us more about this?
The wife is often the unsung hero in the game. Moving when there is a trade, handling the emotions of a bad game, hearing the struggles of a husband whose job is on public record. Add kids and the struggles of seperation during road games, the drama of being a pro athlete and the stories of inappropriate behavior by some on the road and you see how the life of a wife is not all glamor. Then, add young children to the equation! RELEASED spends one chapter discribing what the life is like from the wifes perspective.
The anecdotes which fill the book have to be the most enjoyable! Can you give us an example?
The book documents our trip to Russia. UPI had taken the first group of pro players to that country when it was still the U.S.S.R. We document what the city of Moscow was like, the baseball enviroment and many stories of living conditions, lack of food for the people and the warm welcome we recieved from the players. That chapter is called "To Russia with Glove". There is another chapter on taking American pro players to China for the first time. It was in the mid 80's when Americans were not always welcomed. That chapter is called "Chopstix and Fungoes." Then there are life stories of our staff and other trips taken to various countries around the world as well as U.S, Military bases in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iran.
How do you think your book will help us understand the world of baseball through the Christian perspective?
I think that the reader will come away with a new perspective on how baseball is being used to further the gospel to a specific people group...baseball players and coaches. It gives an introduction to how players in our country at the pro level are being discipled and lead in chapel services each Sunday. It also gives the reader an inside look into the lives of Christians in the game of pro baseball and their depth of understanding of the Word and their need to be light and salt.
Thank you so much for this interview, Tom! We wish you much success with your book and UPI!
Tom: Thank you so very much!

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