By Matt Van Wormer
When Jim Thome left the Indians after the 2002 season (Yeah, it really was nine years ago), I was bitter. I was angry that this man who said he wanted to stay in Cleveland and that money didn’t matter made it seem like all that mattered was money. In my 19 year old eyes, Thome lied to me. Not to anyone else, just me. I hated Jim Thome. I hated the Phillies because Jim Thome played for them. The following summer, I was in Chicago watching the Cubs play the Phillies and people were congregated by the visiting dugout. I went down there and yelled at Jim Thome for not signing my ticket stub. I told him we didn’t miss him in Cleveland. I was the liar.
After his time in Philly, Thome did the only thing he could do to make me hate him more. He signed with the Chicago White Sox, the team I hate the most in Major League Baseball. I made sure to get to games against the White Sox at Jacob’s Field just so I could boo Jim Thome. That first time he came up to bat was very weird. There were a lot of people booing and a lot of people cheering. “How can you people cheer him!? He lied to me!” I was 22 or 23 but I was still naive. I wasn’t ready to forgive him.
Thome finished the 2009 season with the Dodgers and then he came back to the American League Central and signed with the Minnesota Twins. “Yes! I get to spew my venomous boos all over Jim Thome again!” was the first thought that entered my mind. The first time I saw the Indians and Twins play each other last year, however, I found myself doing something I hadn’t been able to do in the past. I sat back, heard his name called and gently clapped to welcome him back to the place he called home for 12 years. My anger had subsided. I was ready to forgive and begin the healing process.
When the first rumor about Jim Thome coming back to Cleveland was leaked, I knew I was completely healed. Instead of thinking “I don’t want him here” I was thinking more along the lines of “I hope the front office doesn’t mess this up!” I wanted Jim Thome back. I am over the anger and sadness that I felt as a younger man. With this season of early hopes slowly turning into the possible reality of an empty October schedule, it is nice to have a guy on the team who can help this club, ignite the fans and, most importantly a guy who gets to come back to his first home. It’s sparks like this that can get an off-course season back on track. Jim, I’m not mad anymore. In fact, I couldn’t be happier that you, the Thomenator, are back!