Jim Thome, back in uniform as Nazareth assistant, prepares to coach son in state semifinals

Thome is a busy guy these days. But he has no regrets about adding another line to his resume this spring: assistant baseball coach at Nazareth.

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Hall of Famer Jim Thome is coaching his son Landon, a freshman second baseman at Nazareth, this spring as the Roadrunners seek to defend their Class 3A title.

Hall of Famer Jim Thome is coaching his son Landon, a freshman second baseman at Nazareth, this spring as the Roadrunners seek to defend their Class 3A title.

Ted Piton

Jim Thome is a busy guy these days.

The Hall of Famer and former White Sox slugger is a special assistant to Sox general manager Rick Hahn, president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and part of the MLB Network broadcast team.

But he has no regrets about adding another line to his resume this spring: assistant baseball coach at Nazareth.

That has Thome back in uniform alongside his son Landon, who’s starting at second base for the defending Class 3A champion Roadrunners. Nazareth (32-6), two wins away from a repeat title, plays Sycamore (33-5) at noon Friday in the 3A semifinals at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet.

“The White Sox have been so great,” Jim Thome said after the Roadrunners’ 8-0 supersectional win over Lindblom on Monday. “I can’t thank Rick Hahn, Jerry [Reinsdorf], Kenny Williams enough for allowing me — working and being around this, but also juggling the fact that I love to be at the ballpark and help our guys there.

“And then I work two or three times a month at the [MLB] network in New York, so I’m all baseball.”

That extends to the old-school, high-socks look he sports in his Nazareth uniform.

“Yeah, this has been a joy,” Thome said. “I’ve told my wife — we’ve talked about this, things go very quick with your kids, right? We’ve got a daughter at Purdue. And watching that process, that journey — you’ve got to embrace every moment with your kids and enjoy it. And this has been so special.

Landon Thome has been a key contributor for the Roadrunners in his first high-school season, batting .330 with 26 runs, 25 RBI and eight doubles.

Jim Thome and Nazareth head coach Lee Milano have tried to ease the younger Thome’s path as the son of an MLB legend.

“I try to simplify it for him,” Jim Thome said. “I’ve got to say he works extremely hard. And as his dad, I’m really, really proud of him. He’s a young kid that really loves to play the game and has been given an unbelievable opportunity around a ton of great players.”

“Landon has done a really nice job,” Milano said. “Jim and I have talked about [how] Landon has to create his own identity and it’s our job to take the pressure off of him as much as we can. But he still has the No. 25 on and it’s still the same last name.”

Meanwhile, Jim Thome wears his fame lightly, according to Milano.

“He is, I don’t know if you could say, as normal a Hall of Famer as could be,” Milano said. “He’s such a down-to-earth guy and such a humble man. I have to remind the kids, this is a first-ballot Hall of Famer we have in our dugout and our practices.”

As much as Thome’s ability to teach the game, Milano appreciates his willingness to share his wealth of experience at the highest levels, “telling us about facing Randy Johnson and Justin Verlander, and sitting down and having dinner with Joe Torre and Buck Showalter.”

For all of his fame, Milano added, Thome remains as approachable as anyone. “Anyone that stops him anywhere, he will always give them an autograph, take pictures,” Milano said.

For his part, Thome is loving his new role.

“It’s been a lot of fun ... for me to have the opportunity to be around the younger generation of baseball,” he said. “It’s really special.”

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