Tom Saffell has been involved in professional baseball for over 60 years, as a Minor League and Major League player, a Minor League manager, and for the past 26 years as the president of the Gulf Coast League. So when he says that receiving the 2005 Warren Giles Award is one of the highlights of his career, that's saying something.
Minor League Baseball annually presents the Warren Giles Award to a league president for oustanding service. The award was named after the former National League president, who Saffell says he never actually met but was familiar with due to his reputation.
"I know that he was very well revered and well respected by baseball people," said Saffell. "I just hope people feel the same way about me."
Saffell, 84, has all the usual duties of a league president, involving schedules, field conditions, umpires, travel, discipline and a bevy of other responsibilities. But above all, he says, he takes pride in the development of the young players in the GCL that are right out of school and playing the game every day for the first time in their lives.
"It's just been a pleasure to work with them," he said. "And being around these young kids has been a special boon for me to keep me young."
During his tenure with the the GCL, the former Air Force pilot has worked with 23 Major League organizations and dealt with hundreds of farm directors and scouts, many of whom he says have become good friends.
"It's been a fantastic pleasure for me to be associated with all these farm directors that I've known for all these years, and I have a special feeling for the scouts. Since I've been here, we do everything we can to help the scouts because I feel they're very special people."
Saffel played four years as an outfielder in the big leagues, and prior to that spent time in the Minors, where he played for the 1948 Indianapolis Indians, which is considered one of the greatest Minor League teams of all time.
"When I got out of the service in 1946 -- I flew fighter planes and had 61 missions -- I had a chance to go into the airline business, but I chose to go into baseball instead," recalled Saffell. "And I don't regret that at all."
The Warren Giles Award, along with several others, will be presented during the Baseball Winter Meetings, which take place at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas, on Dec. 5-8.