Josh Tomlin: The Little Cowboy
Taking over Grandma’s backyard and dominating neighborhood home run derby as a kid, Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin is evidently comfortable swinging a bat.
Tomlin’s father, Jerry, signed him up for T-ball when he was four years old and spent hours sitting with him in front of the television, always watching baseball.
“[My dad] told me to watch the game and pick up everything I could,” Tomlin, 27, said. “I think that’s what made me better. I enjoyed watching baseball.
“I enjoyed being out there with my dad all the time. It’s something that brought us closer together, and it was something I loved to do.”
Tomlin, an only child, grew up alongside a busy highway. He said he typically rode the bus to a friend’s house or biked a few miles away to meet up with a group of friends.
When Tomlin was nine years old, Jerry constructed a baseball field in his grandmother’s backyard, where Tomlin and his friends met to play home run derby.
“We put a backstop there and a pitcher’s mound, and we’d go over there basically every day after school and play, just me and the other guys,” he said.
Tomlin played shortstop for two years at Angelina Junior College, where he hit .351 (73-208) with 17 doubles, four triples, one home run, and 42 RBI his sophomore year. Tomlin recorded eight stolen bases and was never caught stealing that year.
In 2006, Tomlin transferred to Texas Tech and became a pitcher. Upon completion of his junior year, the Cleveland Indians drafted Tomlin, who had recorded just seven starts in 13 appearances (40.2 innings) and an ERA of 4.20.
“The Indians made the decision for me,” he said. “I knew I probably wouldn’t make it to the big leagues as an infielder. I wouldn’t be able to compete up here as a hitter at all. I wouldn’t hit home runs; I’d probably hit singles and that’s it.”
Tomlin has done just that thus far in his career with the Tribe. In Interleague play this season, Tomlin finished 2-for-5 (.400) at the plate. In his career with Cleveland, he is 4-for-7 (.571).
He credits his success at the plate to the bat that [former Indians outfielder] Austin Kearns once gave him.
“When it comes to hitting, it’s mainly a joke more than anything else,” Tomlin said. “I enjoy hitting. I enjoy being a part of the game as a whole — not just on one side, playing defense. I feel like you can take a little bit of pride in [hitting] if you can help your team in any way possible.”
Despite owning bragging rights among Indians pitchers during batting practice, Tomlin said that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s play has convinced Tomlin that he could not compete in the field at this level.
“I don’t think I could ever play like that,” Tomlin said. “He’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The stuff he does defensively is pretty ridiculous. He makes plays look routine, makes difficult plays look easy.”
Through all of Tomlin’s success on the mound in Cleveland, Tomlin does not have to look too far to be reminded of where he came from. His thick southern accent and southern fashion has given Indians manager Manny Acta reason to nickname Tomlin the “Little Cowboy.”
“In 2010, he told me I need to get the cowboy up on the mound and get this last guy, so ever since then, that’s what he’s been calling me,” Tomlin said. “I think the reason he calls me that is because I wear cowboy boots every single day he sees me.”
Tomlin may have upgraded his view from the couch in his living room in Tyler, TX, to the Cleveland Indians dugout, but Jerry sure has not budged throughout his son’s impressive career.
“We talk a lot. He’ll call me and talk to me about [my game],” Tomlin said. “We go over what he thinks, but he kind of knows that it’s my experience. He just gives me words of encouragement, and we go from there.”
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor