Longtime high school coach and international baseball clinician Tom O’Connell is the distinguished recipient of the 2020 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award. O’Connell is recognized for his significant contributions and effort towards growing the sport of baseball both in the United States and abroad.
O'Connell becomes the first ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award winner to have served as a high school coach his entire career.
Named after the great Lefty Gomez, this annual award is presented to an individual who has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, national and internationally. The Lefty Gomez Award is presented by Wilson Sporting Goods and will be awarded during the ABCA/Diamond Hall of Fame Banquet at the ABCA Convention on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.
The only high school coach ever elected President of the American Baseball Coaches Association, O'Connell has spent nearly 50 years coaching baseball. From 1974-2000, he coached at Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, Wisc., where his teams won more games than any other sport in the school's history. In 2001, he became the head coach at Catholic Central High School in Burlington, Wisc., where he led the Hilltoppers to five Wisconsin state championships (2004, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2011). Combined, his teams won over 500 games.
Long involved in the ABCA, O'Connell was Chairman of the high school division from 1984-1996, where he initiated many of the policies still in use. The 48-year Lifetime ABCA Member continues to serve as a member of the ABCA's Board of Directors, Hall of Fame Committee, Professional-Amateur Relations Committee and is Chair of the Ethics in Coaching Committee.
O'Connell is also a Past President of the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association (WBCA), where for 20 years he organized the state's successful Clinic and Convention. In 1987 he was inducted into the WBCA Hall of Fame, and, in 1991, was named their Man of the Year.
Four times named ABCA/Diamond Regional Coach of the Year (1983, 2004, 2005, 2010), O'Connell was selected as ABCA/Diamond National High School Coach of the Year in 2004. In 1995, he coached the North Team in the last United States Olympic Festival ever held, a squad which featured Major Leaguers Mark Mulder, Jody Gerut and Robb Quinlan.
O’Connell has led teams of professional and college coaches to all corners of Europe conducting clinics for International Sports Group (ISG) and has been instrumental in the success of the baseball clinic at the annual German Baseball and Softball Federation (DBV) Convention. He currently serves on the ISG Board of Directors as President.
In 2017, the German Baseball and Softball Federation used their annual All-Star Game between the German National Team and the Bundesliga All-Stars to honor O’Connell with the DBV Needle of Honor for his contributions to the development of German baseball.
In 1993, O'Connell was selected as the first high school coach to participate in the Major League Baseball Envoy program-a program which paired American coaches with foreign club teams and schools-and served 10 years living with families and coaching club teams and introducing baseball in schools throughout Germany.
He has been inducted into three Halls of Fame: the ABCA Hall of Fame
, the Old Time Baseball Players Hall of Fame in Milwaukee and the WBCA Hall of Fame.
An accomplished author, O’Connell has published three books with Human Kinetics Press, Coaching Baseball: Techniques and Tactics, Coaching Youth Baseball, and, most recently, Play Ball: 100 Baseball Practice Games.
O'Connell has also served as a part time scout for the Reds, Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies and an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research, serving as secretary for the Wisconsin Badger State/Ken Keltner Chapter.
List of past ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award honorees