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Is Tommy Eveld the most interesting man in baseball?

How the former college football player is aiming to make the major leagues
Tommy Eveld has pitched in Jacksonville from 2018-19 and 2021-22. (Andreea Cardani/Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)
September 20, 2022

Where do you even begin if you’re talking about Tommy Eveld? Maybe the time he got called out of the stands in the middle of a Major League Baseball game to relace the mitt of one of his Miami Marlins teammates? The wooden table he handcrafted for his mother? The

Where do you even begin if you’re talking about Tommy Eveld? Maybe the time he got called out of the stands in the middle of a Major League Baseball game to relace the mitt of one of his Miami Marlins teammates? The wooden table he handcrafted for his mother? The proposal on the field to his now-wife? The Monday Night Football theme he uses as his walk-up music? The torn ACLs he suffered playing college football?

Yes, perhaps it’s best to start there. Because before Tommy Eveld the Baseball Player there was Tommy Eveld the Football Player, and the former couldn’t exist without the latter.

Eveld played both sports all the way up until he was a sophomore at Jesuit High School in Tampa. His track switched to football-only after that, and he was good. Good enough for a preferred walk-on spot as a quarterback at the University of South Florida. Good enough to get as high as second on the depth chart at one point, and athletic enough to then make a positional change to safety going into his redshirt junior year.

Oftentimes in football, the key to moving up the depth chart at any other position besides quarterback is special teams, and at practice one day, that’s exactly where Eveld found himself. He was running down a punt when he got blocked in the back. His ACL tore in an instant. Little did he know at the time, but in that small moment, a scout-team college football safety slightly opened the door for a career in professional baseball.

Tommy Eveld at one time was as high as second on the quarterback depth chart at the University of South Florida. (Fran Ruchalski/Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)

So you probably think you have this all figured out; Eveld tore his ACL and because his arm was so good since he at first was a quarterback, he got a shot to play baseball. The rest must be history. No, no no, that’s not how it happened. There were times, of course, Tommy probably wished it was that easy. But then it might not have taken him to this point.

Because he was rehabbing the torn ACL, when the USF Bulls football team left to go to summer football camp, Eveld didn’t join them. Instead, he started playing slow-pitch softball. The door was ajar. In the meantime, though, Eveld was still all-in on football.

“Growing up, I didn't know what I wanted to do,” Eveld said. “I didn't know if I wanted to be a professional fisherman, professional baseball player, professional football player. I just always had the dream of wanting to be a professional athlete. Something to do with sports. And, obviously, when I went to college, that dream was, I want to be in the NFL.

“When the team came back from the summer football camp in Vero Beach, I met with the coach and I was like, ‘Hey, scout team defense, I don't think that's for me. I'm very high energy. I'm in really good shape. I think if you let me play scout team wide receiver, I can just go, go, go, go, go, go, go. I don’t need to take breaks. I can help the team win more games if you put me at scout team wide receiver.’”

The preferred walk-on quarterback who then became a scout team safety was now a scout team wide receiver. The only thing was, Eveld wasn’t cleared for contact until there were only three weeks left in the season – a season that he missed the entirety of as a result.

Remember when Eveld mentioned he was high-energy? Even though he wasn’t playing in the games, football was on his schedule every single day from Monday through Saturday. There were practices and film sessions to attend, injury rehab to complete. It was a full slate. And on top of that, he still had schoolwork to manage, friends to hang out with.

Even with all that, his schedule left open two time slots: Thursday night and Sunday. Most people would have used those tiny openings to do some homework, hang out with friends, play video games, maybe even enjoy a happy hour at a bar just off campus. Basically, to rest and recover from the previous week and prepare for the upcoming one. But that’s not Tommy Eveld. Instead, he played slow-pitch softball on Thursday nights and spent his Sundays in an 18-and-up men’s baseball league.

“I had a pretty packed schedule in terms of playing sports, and men's league baseball was going really well,” said Eveld. “Some of the guys in the team were telling me, ‘Hey, you need to go try out for the baseball team at USF.’ And I was just like, ‘No, I'm just doing this for fun. It's no big deal.’ And they're like, ‘No, you don't understand. You're throwing harder than everybody else in the league. We don't know how hard it is. but just trust us, go ask for a tryout.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? What's it gonna hurt?’”

Playing slow-pitch softball and adult men's league baseball helped push Tommy Eveld from football to baseball. (Justin Nedrow/Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)

When he got back to campus, Eveld marched down the hall to the offices of then-head baseball coach Mark Kingston. He knocked on the door and told him bluntly that he wanted to try out for the team.

“He was super confused. Like, who are you? And I just told him, ‘Oh, I'm one of the wide receivers on the football team. I think I can throw 90 mph. Can I try out? Can I borrow a radar gun? I just want to see how hard I can throw,’” said Eveld. “And he was kind of sketched out, didn't want to just hand over a $2,000 radar gun or however much they cost. And I was like, ‘Look, if I don't bring it back, I'm right down the hall. You can come get me.’ And he goes, ‘Alright, it's in the top drawer. The shelf right there.’ So I went over, took it, brought it home. I was throwing 88, 89 just in the yard with no cleats on flat ground. I brought the radar gun back to him, told him, and he goes, ‘Alright, you can try out in January.’”

Eveld made the team two weeks before the 2015 season started. A small potential issue, though, was he didn’t have a glove. Or at least the right glove for his position. Or at least the correctly-branded right glove for his position for USF.

Because Eveld hadn’t played baseball since about 2008, all he had was an infield glove that he had just put on the shelf in his bedroom back at home. One of his closest friends, who just happened to be an equipment manager at Florida State University, and traded Tommy an old pitcher’s glove for Eveld’s infield mitt. But when Eveld made the team, that newly-acquired glove, branded by Louisville Slugger, was an issue because USF was sponsored by Rawlings at the time. So he was given an all-black-laced Rawlings glove. Eveld, though, wanted a glove with the green lace sported by many of his new Bulls teammates.

“I asked the coach, ‘Hey, why can't I get one of these with the cool colored lace in it?’ And he said, ‘Oh, well that glove will take a while for them to make. You won't get it until the season's halfway over. Just order green lace and get someone to put it in there for you.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I don't know how to do that,’” Eveld said. “So I started asking guys on the team, and Casey Mulholland was one of our pitchers, and he would relace gloves for people when their gloves would break. I watched him pull all the black lace out and put all the green lace in. I saw how it was pretty simple to do and I was like, ‘I think I can do that.’ So the next year, when I got a new glove, I pulled all the black lace out and put green lace in it and I took all the green lace out of my old glove out and I put yellow lace in it, and it was fun. Ever since then, when someone's glove breaks, I fix it.”

Meanwhile, as if transitioning to a new sport at the Division I level, going to school and learning how to lace baseball mitts wasn’t enough, Eveld was dating a USF softball pitcher, Erica Nunn. In his own playing prowess, life seemed to just push him away from the gridiron and towards the diamond. This pursuit would wind up no different.

“Maybe destiny, I guess,” said Eveld. “We met our freshman year at USF, so it was kind of cool to be dating her while I was making that transition. The baseball and softball field at USF are connected, so our practices would overlap the tail end so that we weren't hitting foul balls into each other. So whenever we were having a scrimmage or something, she was actually able to come watch me pitch and then vice-versa, when she would pitch, I was able to watch her.”

Watching Eveld relearn baseball wasn’t necessarily pretty at first. His ERA was 6.11 after the 2015 season. He was still a member of the football team as well, soaking up his wide receiver duties. At some point during all this, he tore his ACL again. He still doesn’t know when or how. But following the 2015 baseball season, he underwent his second ACL surgery. It was another pivotal moment in his journey.

About eight years earlier, he had decided to solely focus on football, leaving baseball in the past. Now, he was about to make the opposite decision.

“I sort of told the football coach, ‘It's not worth it. I don't want to do this a third time,” Eveld said. “I just stuck to baseball from that point-on and that was when the dream changed of playing in the NFL to playing in MLB. In terms of the dream becoming a reality we're here in Triple-A. It could be any day, it could be today, tomorrow, maybe next year. I don't know. That's all out of my control. All I can do is just keep throwing whatever pitch the catcher calls for the best I can.”

Tommy Eveld has learned to lace his own mitts. (Jim Brady/Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)

Tommy Eveld the Football Player was now fully transformed into Tommy Eveld the Baseball Player. In his second baseball season at USF, he posted a 2.21 ERA, rising to become the Bulls’ closer with nine saves and 67 strikeouts in 53.0 innings.

The improvement was enough for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who took Eveld in the ninth round of the 2016 draft. After he signed, they sent him to then-Short Season Class A Hillsboro in the Northwest League. The team started the season on the road and when he made his home debut a few days later, he had not yet selected a walk-up song. Noting his football background, as Eveld trotted in from the bullpen for the seventh inning of a June 21, 2016 game against Eugene, the PA system blared the Monday Night Football theme. Eveld threw a perfect inning, and as a result, has kept the song as his entrance music ever since.

If it was incredible for him to even make it to this point, all Eveld has done since is shown he belongs. There have been many great moments, too many to even count. He proposed to Erica on the field before a May 8, 2017 game. He picked up the save a few hours later for then-Low A Kane County. Off the field, he’s picked up woodworking with his grandfather as his inspiration. It’s gotten to the point where he’s pieced together a small workshop in his home in North Carolina. The crown jewel so far has been a table he built for his mom. He has another special gift for her coming up (it wasn’t ready for Mother’s Day, he recently quipped).

And he’s continued his hobby of relacing mitts, even expanding his glovework to cleaning, reconditioning and coloring. In fact, during the middle of a 2020 game he was sitting in the empty stands for as a member of the Marlins’ taxi squad, he was called down to the dugout by shortstop Miguel Rojas in order to relace a teammate’s glove that had snapped mid-game. Eveld got it done by the time Miami went back out on the field defensively for the next half-inning.

All the while, he’s enjoyed so much success on the field, rising to Triple-A New Orleans in 2019 and Triple-A Jacksonville in both 2021 and 2022. Those stints on the Marlins’ taxi squad have given him a glimpse of what life is like in the major leagues and the last bits of adjustments he needs to make to get there.

You have to go back to the beginning to realize just how extraordinary it is for Tommy Eveld the Baseball Player to even exist. To also know from his story that he’s also so much more than just a baseball player: a husband, a son, a teammate, a friend.

The middle and end of that story? Well, that’s still being written.