Updated: Nov. 20, 2015 | Written by James H. Williams
The death of former Riverside City College and major league pitcher Tommy Hanson, 29, shocked the baseball world as the news began to circulate on social media Nov. 9.
Former teammates such as Chipper Jones took to Twitter to send their condolences to Hanson.
“My heart is broken today,” Jones tweeted. “Tommy Hanson was a great teammate, friend and pitcher. We all loved and pulled for him. We ALL will miss him.”
While fans may know of the right-handed pitcher for his time with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, his baseball career started in the Inland Empire.
The word used by Redlands East Valley baseball coach James Cordes to describe Hanson is “pioneer.”
“He was not the first REV player to be drafted,” Cordes said. “But he is the first player to make a significant impact in the minor leagues and play in the major leagues. That is why he is a pioneer to our community.”
After the news of his passing, Cordes went out to the high school baseball field and placed a banner with Hanson’s retired No. 26 on the fence under a half-staffed American Flag.
“I just joined the staff as an assistant coach when he was a senior,” Cordes said. “I decided to retire his number after I became coach. He has done so much for the community and his hometown.”
To those who knew Hanson, he will be remembered for his heart, smile and selflessness which was on display when he would find ways to help the community such as the one at REV.
After looking to play at Sacramento State following his time with Redlands East Valley, it was his friend Andy Bouchie who encouraged him to take a look at RCC’s baseball program that was under the leadership of Dennis Rodgers.
“He was one of my friends since I was 14 and we played against each other in high school but it was not until our time at RCC that our brotherhood really started,” said Bouchie, who played for the Tigers after graduating from Arlington High School. “He was going to SAC State but I begged him to talk to Dennis and check out RCC.”
Another of Hanson’s teammates was Wally Crancer, who is an assistant coach at Purdue University and a graduate of Norco High School.
“Among all of (the members of our RCC team), Tommy had the most upside,” Crancer added. “While Tommy may not have known that or paid much attention to it because of how humble he was, Dennis knew it.”
After two seasons with the Tigers, Hanson is listed among the best to have suited up for the baseball program and has a banner on the left field wall alongside the other greats to play for the Tigers’ program.
He is third all-time among RCC’s pitchers with 16 strikeouts in a single-game, an accomplishment that Hanson achieved twice in 2006. He also holds the record for 154 strikes in a single-season.
Among career leaders, Hanson is listed first with 233 career strikeouts from the mound.
He was also third in starts with 31 and eighth on the list for number of innings pitched with 202.2, according to the RCC Athletics website.
It was during his time under Rodgers, that Hanson began to develop into his body, sparking the interest of MLB and university scouts.
He was selected by the Braves in the 22nd round of the 2005 MLB amateur draft out of RCC.
Hanson played four seasons with the Braves and his last with the Angels, following a trade in 2013.
According to reports by the Coweta County Sheriff Department, it is likely that the cause of death was a result of a possible overdose. Toxicology results would take weeks before an official results could be determined. A memorial service will be held in honor of Tommy Hanson at the RCC Baseball Field on Jan. 16, 2016.
News broke in the evening of Nov. 9 that the Redlands East Valley alumnus was in a coma and suffered from organ failure.
Hanson was drafted by the Braves out of RCC in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft. He also played for the Los Angeles Angels during his MLB career.
He played four seasons with the Braves and his last with the Angels, following a trade in 2013.
The pitcher was the first player from REV to play in the MLB. He also has the No. 26 retired at the school.
More to come
Baseball stadium lights will be on from 5 to 9 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in honor of Tommy Hanson. Guests are welcome to come share stories.
— RiversideCityCollege (@RCCSocialmedia) November 10, 2015