Friday, January 29, 2010

Tribute to Tim Salmon, GCU Hall of Fame

The late Jim Brock once told me the biggest mistake he ever made in coaching at ASU was to not aggressively recruit Tim Salmon. That’s probably one of two things Coach Brock and I ever agree on.

Tim was drafted out of Greenway High School in 1986 by the Atlanta Braves, and fortunately for Canyon, he took our meager scholarship offer, instead of signing with the Braves.

By the time Tim left Canyon, three years later, he owned Canyon career records for Home Runs (51), Runs Batted In (192) and Runs Scored (225). He was second in all time average (.383) and Hits (229). And he was fifth in Games Played, At Bats and Doubles. In 1987 and 1988 he led Canyon to the NAIA World Series finishing fourth and second. To say the very least, based on his Canyon baseball accomplishments alone, Tim more than deserves this award tonight.

But, obviously, the story on Tim continues. In 1989, Tim was drafted in the third round by the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim. His early minor league career was marred by being hit by a pitch that broke his jaw, an injury that would end most player’s career. But, a broken jaw would not stop Tim.

In 1992, Tim was baseball’s Minor League Player of the Year. In 1993, he was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year, the only Angel to ever win the award. In 2001 he was the American League Comeback Player of the Year. In 2002, he was awarded the Hutch Award for his competitive spirit. And in 2002 he led the Angels to their only World Series Championship.

Tim retired after 14 seasons with the same team, a rarity. Tim is the Angel’s career leader in Home Runs (299), walks, slugging percentage and second in RBI’s. He is considered to be the best hitter ever produced by the Angel’s franchise.

Tim’s Major League career certainly adds to the reasons he is being honored tonight. But there is a whole lot more to Tim’s life than baseball.

Tim and his lovely wife Marci, met here at Canyon. Marci told me that she knew Tim was the guy for her when he picked her up for their first date. He was driving the oldest and most delapitated car she had ever seen. But, every time she got in and out of the car he opened the door for her and that won her over. Tim and Marci have four beautiful children, Callie, Jacob and the twins Ryan and Kaitlin.

Tim and Marci have founded the Tim Salmon Foundation for the benefit of needy children. And they are also deeply involved in Neighborhood Ministries.

Grand Canyon has also been the recepient of Tim and Marci’s generosity. They donated the funds for the Tim Salmon Baseball Clubhouse and for scholarships in the College of Business and the College of Education.

Tim, never one to rest on his laurels, went back to school and graduated from Canyon just this past year.

Tim is a man of deep faith. Saint Francis said, “Preach always and when necessary use words.” I see Tim Salmon when I hear that statement.

I want to close with two very brief short stories.

I was privileged to attend the Angels home games in the 2002 World Series. I had some great seats in right field, where Tim played. I went early to all four games. When I arrived for the first game, there was a young man with his son sitting in front of me. He was a chatty guy and before long we were new best friends. He told me these were his dad’s season ticket seats, which he had bought the Angels first season. Every year his dad would take him to Phoenix to watch the Angels in Spring Training. And every year his dad would predict that this would be the year the Angels would win it all. Teary-eyed the young man told me his dad had died the year before. His dad would have been so proud of the Angels and especially Tim who was his favorite player. This young guy told me that the reason he attended church was because of Tim’s witness and lifestyle.

After the Angels won the seventh game, the Angels owner, Mrs. Gene Autry handed the trophy to Tim and he did a victory lap around the field. When he ran by our seats that young guy turned to me with tears streaming down his face, “That’s for my dad,” he told me.

After Tim won the Rookie of Year Award a scout told me I should be out looking for another Tim Salmon. Scouts never were my favorite people. In one of my better moments I told that scout the obvious. Every coach should be so lucky to have one Tim Salmon during their coaching career – but, there’s only one Tim Salmon – and he’s already played for Canyon.

Congratulations Tim – and this is the best compliment I can give you Tim, you are a Canyon guy.