Tommy Tanous couldn’t stop peeking at his phone.
The New York Mets’ VP of international and amateur scouting had some of the best collection of high school talent on the field in front of him at the Area Code games last week in Long Beach, California, but a game being played on the opposite side of the country in Bristol, Connecticut, held his attention.
Tanous’ 11-year-old son, Lucas, and his Barrington (R.I.) Little League teammates were battling in the New England regional with the hope of ultimately qualifying for the Little League World Series.
Whenever Lucas came to bat, the emotions poured through Tommy as if he were actually in Connecticut, not watching alongside fellow scouts on the west coast.
“It is the most nerve-wrecking thing I’ve ever gone through. My heart rate is going so fast. I’m like another parent. He gets two strikes, I’m worried,” Tanous told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. “I could feel my heart going. My heart doesn’t race that fast during the draft.
“By the next game I couldn’t sit and watch with anyone. I was just going to be too irritable or too happy depending on how Lucas did.”
Tanous had originally planned on leaving Friday to head back to Rhode Island, but with Barrington still alive and needing to win Friday to advance to the regional final, he switched his flight to Thursday night, taking a red-eye flight from LAX that landed in Boston at 7:30 a.m. ET.
He made the short commute down the Massachusetts Turnpike to Bristol for that day’s game, watching Lucas deliver the game-winning hit in a victory over a team from Madison, Connecticut.
In Saturday’s final, Lucas, the starting first baseman, went 3 for 4 and delivered the go-ahead hit to help clinch the New England regional and send Barrington to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Barrington opens Thursday against a team from South Riding, Virginia, and Tommy will be there alongside his wife, Beth, and two other sons, Sam, 17, and Gabe, 14.
“[Lucas] is my youngest, all of them played, and this is like the cherry on the top. That’s what it really feels like,” Tanous said before heading to Williamsport. “All of those times I threw batting practice, all three of them, and had them on the field, working hard. I never asked them to win a game or get a hit. All I asked was play as hard as you can for the coach you’re playing for. It makes me so proud, and to see it on TV, and hear them talking about your son, it’s really the cherry on top.”
The life of a scout can be quite demanding on a family due to the constant time spent on the road evaluating the best hitters and pitchers. The draft comes and goes each year, and scouts immediately start working on next year’s draft class.
Since he runs the Mets’ draft, Tanous is constantly traveling to get a first-hand look at those who will be under considerations when the Mets pick. And since the Northeast is not considered a hot bed for premier preps and collegiate talent, Tanous is often departing Logan International to get a first-hand look.
Those hours away from the family take their toll as Tanous and others scouts miss plenty of family events. It’s just not feasible to constantly shuttle back and forth.
This year’s June draft forced Tanous to miss Lucas starring in his school’s rendition of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
That’s why this tournament is all the more special for Tanous since he saw the championship win and will continue to watch what will be a memorable event.
Mets third baseman Todd Frazier still can vividly recall the scene and details from his Toms River East’s (N.J.) title run in 1998.
The Mets are actually hosting a tournament for travel teams this week in New York, but Tanous will commute back and forth to make sure he doesn’t miss a game.
“I am blessed to do something for last 23 years that I have loved to do. I’m blessed to work for a great organization in the Mets,” Tanous said. “The only unfortunate thing is I have missed many great moments of my kids. To be able to see this one is very emotional for me. I flew there, see him get that big hit and so many thoughts ran through my mind. I was so happy I got to see him do this live and see the smile on his face and reaction on his bases and to be part of that moment.
“I’ve missed so much. Every scout will tell you the same thing.”
Tanous and Lucas now share share the unique connection of both having played in a World Series since the father twice appeared in the collegiate World Series.
A former shortstop, Tanous played in the Junior College World Series with the Community College of Rhode Island, and also the Division II World Series with AIC.
Lucas is actually the outlier among the Tanous family with the other two playing middle infield positions like their father.
The two older sons’ teams both fell short in their quest to reach the Little League World Series, which is why Tanous says this run is like “hitting the lottery.”
“I’m so impressed with the coaching of these kids and how well they’ve done, and Barrington Little League in general,” Tanous said. “You leave your kid with them, and you’re not there a lot, and these guys have done a wonderful job.”
While Tanous doesn’t have to worry about swing mechanics when watching his son, that doesn’t mean the scout in him is entirely removed.
He still knows a good hitter when he sees one, and he likes what Barrington’s first baseman will show to the country during the tournament.
“Love the swing,” Tanous said. “Love his attitude at the plate. Wants to hit. Gamer.”
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