An Appreciation: Lou Tompkins ~ Touched Thousands of Lives in Bedford and Beyond

Lou Tompkins, an extraordinary coach and human being ~ Courtesy image (c) 2021 all rights reserved

Lou Tompkins, whose two decades as a volunteer baseball coach, director, and innovator touched thousands of lives in Bedford and beyond, has died.

Tompkins, who was in his late 70s, lived in the Tucson area for about 20 years and had been in declining health. Family members are considering a memorial event.

“I think he understood the 12-year-old mind better than anybody,” said Paul McGrath, who with Jim Sullivan coached alongside Tompkins. “He wasn’t just a baseball coach—it was the way he dealt with kids on a personal level,” said Jerry Ouellette, who served with Tompkins on the field and in the board room.

Peter Morello declared, “He taught me everything I know—not only about the intricacies of the game but also how to deal with the umpires in a gentlemanly way, he taught me how to interact with parents, he taught me how to get down to kids’ level—I loved him.”

Tompkins was a coach and volunteer administrator in Bedford Babe Ruth since its earliest days in the late ‘70s. He was field manager for teams in the 10-12 and 13-14 age groups as well as summer teams.

Later his reach expanded to the Bay State Baseball Tournament of Champions, a summer baseball program in dozens of towns throughout eastern Massachusetts for players ages 10-12. Ouellette said Tompkins led Bay State for 17 years. Directors later expanded the format to an older age cohort named it after Tompkins, much to his embarrassment. The Lou Tompkins All-Star Tournament still flourishes every summer.

Former players were unsparing in their praise. “Lou was a great guy and an awesome baseball coach,” said Lt. Scott Ricker of Bedford Fire and Rescue. “Most of what I learned before high school was from him.”

“He made me love the game of baseball, taught me how to be a leader, and, more important than anything, taught me about being the best teammate,” reflected Geoff Chase, who played for Tompkins in the late 1980s. “He will be missed but definitely not forgotten.” His contemporary Mike Cossette said, “He was such an inspiration to all of us. He was loved by everybody.”

Dave Venuti declared that Tompkins was “one of the best small-diamond managers that the state has ever had. He was a fierce competitor, but most important, he taught you to have respect for the game, for teammates, for coaches. A lot of things he taught I took with me in life.”

Tompkins, who had four children, “did a lot of things behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t know about,” McGrath said. “He was just always trying to do the right thing but never looking for credit.”

Morello, a longtime volunteer leader in Bedford Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball, recounted that he and Tompkins coached Bay State teams together for many years. “He was my mentor —one of the greatest guys I ever knew,” he proclaimed.

Tompkins’s vision began failing in the late 1990s; some think it may have been connected to a line drive that struck him in the face during a baseball practice. He moved to Arizona about 20 years ago—and reinvented himself there, according to Ouellette.

Tomkins founded and ran the Tucson Hospitality Inn, a home-like facility with six guest rooms for outpatients or families of patients in local hospitals who had to travel long distances.

According to a newspaper account, “Tompkins recognized the need for this type of housing after his own stint in the hospital in his native Boston, where his family members slept in their cars in the hospital parking lot, and waiting rooms or chairs in his room so they could remain nearby.”

“Lou being Lou, nothing stopped him,” Ouellette said. At one time, he added, Tompkins headed a national association for these temporary residences, including the well-known Ronald McDonald Houses. Despite his vision issues, he continued, he made “such a significant adaptation to a situation life has thrown upon you. Not a lot of people would have handled it in that manner.”

“I probably spent more hours at board meetings with him, but the time on the field was the most fun,” McGrath reflected.

Venuti said he knew Tompkins “on and off the diamond, he was part of our family,” Venuti’s father Joe was one of the founders of Bedford Babe Ruth. “There are countless stories—we even talk about them nowadays.”

“He was a wise man,” said Morello. “He did so much for the kids of Bedford. I was lucky to work with him.”

 

9 Comments

  1. Lou Tompkins touched a lot of people including my family on and off the field. His love of baseball and of people in general especially the youth of Bedford made him a giant. A great article for a great man.

    Bob Dacey

  2. I knew Lou Tompkin as a fellow trustee of the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses in the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a calming soul who advised patience to all and sought common ground where there were difficult issues to resolve. He was a gentleman. He was fun. So sad to hear that he is no longer with us.

  3. So sad to hear. Have been trying to track him down for a year. He would call me and wish me happy bday every year. When I didn’t get the call in august, I was worried. I would have dinner with him when he came back to visit family.
    I can’t say enough about his good he was and his much of an impression he made on me ba my family. See you again Lou. Get the skis waxed up.

  4. Thanks Mike for the terrific article remembering Coach Lou. He was a great coach on the diamond and an even better one away from it. An inspiration for youth coaches everywhere.

  5. When Lou called me to tell me he was coaching another team in our league I was crushed. I vowed to beat those Blue Jay’s everytime we played them. I have no idea if we ever did,but I remember Coach Lou and how important he was in my life at the time and how much fun it was playing for him. You know you left a positive legacy and contributed in life in a meaningful way when they name a freaking league after you. Farewell Coach Lou.

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