Milt Thompson, the outfielder turned batting coach of the Philadelphia Phillies, arrived at The Independence School on Tuesday in his modest 2001 Chevrolet Silverado.
Thompson has been a motivational speaker for years, but drove to the Newark school specifically because of the relationship he formed with Diane Finocchaiaro, a middle school math teacher he met at a Phillies Fantasy Camp in Clearwater, Fla. a few years before.
Thompson met with the middle school students to talk about the importance of a good education and setting goals, but he also found some time to show-off his World Series and championship rings.
When Thompson isn’t coaching baseball, he is inspiring students to take pride in everything they do.
“I want kids to understand the importance of education as well as continue to set goals for themselves,” Thompson said.
Thompson played 18 years of pro-ball, including more than 11 years in the big leagues with the Braves (1984-85), Phillies (1986-88; 1993-94), Cardinals (1989-92), Astros (1994-95), Dodgers (1996), and Rockies (1996). But as a child, he did not see baseball in his future. Growing up, he either wanted to play professional football, be a police officer, or be a teacher.
Thompson promised all the students autographs if they completed one assignment for him: to write down three careers that interest them.
Thompson believes that part of his success comes from his stubbornness. When he was a young boy, he wanted to play second base, but was told he couldn’t because he could not throw with his right hand. He decided to play catch with his father and practice throwing with his right hand.
“I eliminated the word ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary,” Thompson said.
He ended his talk with the students by reminding them that a class is very similar to a professional team.
“You all need to look out for each other,” Thompson said. “Treat people with respect, and try not to worry what other people think about you.”