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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : sports : sports December 17, 2014

12/5/2012 4:24:00 PM
Tom Pratt 1950-2012
Former local baseball coach Tom Pratt loses battle with cancer
Pratt inaugurated Chino baseball program, also coached at Bradshaw before joining Cubs organization
Courier fileTom Pratt watches his Cougars from the dugout during a game in Chino Valley on May 7, 1994.
Courier file
Tom Pratt watches his Cougars from the dugout during a game in Chino Valley on May 7, 1994.
Courier file photo/Tom HoodHis high school coaching career started in Prescott Valley at Bradshaw Mountain, where he led the Bears to a 59-42 mark from 1981-85. He then went across town to inaugurate the Chino Valley program in 1990, which he coached through 1998. Here he is seen coaching third base in a game on March 8, 1995.
Courier file photo/Tom Hood
His high school coaching career started in Prescott Valley at Bradshaw Mountain, where he led the Bears to a 59-42 mark from 1981-85. He then went across town to inaugurate the Chino Valley program in 1990, which he coached through 1998. Here he is seen coaching third base in a game on March 8, 1995.
Steve Stockmar
Sports Editor

Tom Pratt, who led two local high school teams to state championship games over two decades during a life devoted to baseball and family, died Tuesday. He was 62.

As head coach, Pratt led the Chino Valley Cougars to back-to-back Class 3A state championship game appearances in 1997 and '98 during a memorable run where the Cougars went 41-15 over a two-year stretch, including 25-4 in '98. He also, as head coach, led Prescott Valley's Bradshaw Mountain Bears to a 2A state championship game appearance in 1983.

Pratt also served as athletic director at both high schools. During his baseball-coaching career, he was also an assistant at Arizona State University and the University of Nebraska.

He later became a pitching coach in the Chicago Cubs' organization and spent more than a decade with its farm teams. The Cubs confirmed Pratt's death on Wednesday.

The official cause of Pratt's death has not been released, but he had been battling a cancerous brain tumor throughout 2012.

In February, Pratt was preparing to shift from the Cubs' Class A Daytona (Fla.) team to Class A Peoria (Ill.). He had reported to Minor League mini-camp at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, even though severe headaches had plagued him since before the winter holidays, he said in a June 2012 interview with the Prescott Valley Tribune.

One morning on the field, his head hurt so much he couldn't throw the ball, so doctors sent him to the hospital. That night he underwent brain surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.

Doctors told him they removed a plum-sized cancerous tumor - a type that's fast growing but doesn't spread. He underwent four weeks of heavy chemotherapy and radiation, and, on June 6, an MRI showed no signs of a tumor.

"The 'Tom Pratt Tumor Board' team of four doctors met and said, 'we don't see anything,' just a hole in my head where the tumor was," Pratt joked with the Tribune that month. "I could tell they were happy, even the more stoic one."

His recovery included a maintenance plan of five chemo pills a month, with periodic MRI and blood tests.

However, he fell ill again before losing his battle Tuesday.

Pratt was a baseball player, coach and scout over four decades.

His baseball journey began at 18 years old as an 11th-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in the 1969 draft. That year, the left-handed pitcher went 4-5 with a 3.40 ERA for the Kingsport Royals, striking out 101 in 72 innings. He ranked fifth in the Appalachian League in ERA and second in strikeouts, behind future big leaguer Mike Wallace.

In 1970, Pratt was 2-0 for the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs, but struggled with control. Stops followed in Clinton and Waterloo, Iowa, before his playing days ended in the early '70s.

While later coaching at Chino Valley High School, Pratt was also an associate scout for both the Montreal Expos and Anaheim Angels. He started the Cougars baseball program in 1990 and coached through 1998.

One of his biggest sources of pride was the baseball facility at Chino Valley High School, for which he oversaw construction back in 1990.

"The kids will be doing the work to keep it up. It'll teach them pride and responsibility," he told the Courier that May. "Much of the work will be put in the hands of the kids."

The complex was full of charm, including a hand-operated inning-by-inning scoreboard, which JV players would run out and update between innings during varsity games.

By 1997 it won the "National Field/Groundskeeper of the Year" award, put on by the Baseball Coaches Association, a national organization based in Omaha, Neb. Criteria for the award included field aesthetics and community involvement, among other things. That year, it also won "District 7 Field of the Year" honors, which encompassed high school fields in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

In 2011, the field was renamed in Pratt's honor.

"I'm sure there are prettier fields around the country," Pratt told the Courier in 1997. "But I think the thing that really sold them (committee) was the community involvement and our purpose for having such a field."

He and the Cougars - including his son, pitching ace Andy Pratt, who would later appear in a handful of Major League games between 2002-04 - advanced to consecutive 3A state championship game appearances in the late 1990s. Losses to Globe and Cactus Shadows spoiled Chino Valley's championship bids, but the program would eventually claim its first state title in 2010 under coach Bruce Nesbitt.

Pratt joined the Cubs in 1999 as pitching coach in Eugene (Ore.). In 2000, he served as pitching coach for the Class A Daytona Cubs, who won their league championship that year under manager Richie Zisk.

"The players loved him. He had a son that was approximately their age, so he could relate to them and they could relate to him," remembered Jordan Kobritz, who was then owner of the Daytona Cubs and today writes a weekly sports column for The Daily Courier in Prescott. "He was even a better person I think than he was a baseball coach. He was always up, he was always smiling, he was always optimistic."

Kobritz last saw Pratt this past spring at the Cubs complex in Mesa.

"He had had the surgery, but he was still positive," Kobritz recalled Wednesday. "He was upbeat. He thought he was gonna beat it."

The Daytona pitching staff during that championship year compiled a 3.73 team ERA with 1,045 strikeouts and only 532 walks in 1,233 innings under Pratt. Cubs superstar Kerry Wood spent some time on the staff that summer.

Eventually, that club won the league championship after catching fire.

"I think some of it had to do with the camaraderie and the spirit that that team developed over the course of the summer. And a lot of it I think was Tom," Kobritz said.

"They all respected Richie for what he had done in the game. But Richie was a little standoffish. If you knew Richie, that's just his personality. Whereas Tom was upbeat, effervescent, outgoing, friendly, always had time to talk to you and the players, of course. You just couldn't ask to be around a nicer human being than Tom Pratt."

Pratt is survived by his wife Peggy, son Andy, and daughter Amy.

"He's gonna be missed by everybody who knew him, everybody in the Cubs organization, people throughout baseball," Kobritz added. "He's just a special person, I can tell you that."

Related Stories:
• ALL-COURIER: Chino Valley's Nesbitt earns Coach of the Year as he heads for retirement
• Chino baseball program remembers late coach Tom Pratt

Related Links:
• Coach Pratt 'batting a thousand' after removal of brain tumor

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Bill Rodenhi

I am 66 yrs. old and I still remember that wicked curve ball that Tommy used to throw in little league. I knew he had talent then and he shared that talent with a lot of kids. I feel blessed to have had Tom in my life even if only for a short time.

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012
Article comment by: Eric Lenaburg

My thoughts and prayers are with Peggy, Andy & Amy. I met Tom while working as a Courier reporter in 1983, and over the years, he remained a true friend, a mentor to my son, and one of the best people one could ever meet. We both were working in professional baseball in the 1990s and 2000s, and I looked forward every Spring to seeing Tom, and having dinner and catching up on our personal lives, before we both left Arizona to do our jobs. Godspeed, Tom.

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Article comment by: Donna Savill

Peggy, My thoughts are with you and your family. Many memories with Tom and your family. I know he will be deeply missed. I cherish the time we had. You both raised two incredible children. I send my love and strength. He is sitting on the outfield fence watching the games.

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Article comment by: Jim Foster

My heart sank when I learned of Tommies passing. My thought and prayers go out to his family. I coached many years against Tommie and am proud to say he became my friend. The baseball community not only lost a good man but the world did too because as good as a coach he was, he was even a better person. May you rest in peace Tommie and remember to "take two and hit to right"!

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by: Bill Garrard

God has recalled one of the greatest individuals he has created. Tommy was a terrific man in every sense of the word, friend brother and an endless inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him. Tom gave up a promising career in banking to pursue his dreams to coach,and that he did with all the dedication and enthusiasm he held for life itself. If only we could be half of what Coach Pratt inspired in all of us, what a wonderful life this would be. We love you Peggy, Andy and Amy! God bless you Tommy. You wil always be with us.

Posted: Saturday, December 08, 2012
Article comment by: Kent Gugler

I had the privilege of teaching with Tom and Peggy in the Chino Valley School District for many years: I taught their kids in the middle school. This built a lasting friendship, and consequent sorrow at Tom's untimely departure. His true legacy lives in the many young athletes he coached and encouraged.

Posted: Saturday, December 08, 2012
Article comment by: Steve Brazell

Back in the early 80's I was the broadcaster of Yavapai College baseball and PHS and BMHS sporting events on the radio. Tom Pratt was always helpful and professional in every contact I had with him at every level. A class guy all the way around. Our prayers to his family and friends in this time of loss.

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2012
Article comment by: Dan Beeson

I must echo Tom Hood's comments. Tom Pratt was a great guy with a great family and I'm saddened to see his life end abruptly. I recall many times driving past the CVHS field on a Saturday or Sunday and seeing Tom working on it with his son Andy. The field -- which is the best high school baseball field i have ever seen -- was Tom's pride and joy, his "baby" of sorts, and a major vehicle in building the outstanding baseball program that he established, and that has endured the test of time. Tom moved on to bigger and better things because of his vast knowledge of the sport, and more specifically the pitching aspect of the sport, but his proactive approach to the Cougar program no doubt opened many doors for him and created many great moments for so many others along the way. RIP

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Hood

As Courier photographer throughout the 90s, when an assignment from the Sports Desk came in for coverage of a Chino Valley baseball game, I always smiled. I loved going out there to cover games because of one thing: Tom Pratt. The ultimate professional, a caring, gentle man and great coach. I've worked around many, high school and big leagues, and Tom was the best. No doubt. The last I saw him was about 9 years ago when he was with the Cubs, he took time out to chat, reminisce, and treated me as a friend, which I'm glad and proud to say, he was. My thoughts go out to family and especially Andy, I hope you're well.

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2012
Article comment by: Casey Carr

Andy, Amy, and Peggy my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Tom was an inspiration to all that knew him. With out question his character shaped many of us. he will always be remembered to me as a man that expected your best in all that you do.

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2012
Article comment by: Debbie McCasland

Nobody mentioned Tom and Peggy's days at Yavapai College when they were dorm parents. Tom was also an assistant baseball coach and Peggy taught some PE classes. They are great people and I enjoyed our times together. Tom fought the fight and won over the terrible pain. Now he is in Heaven enjoying the fishing. You are in our prayers. Peggy, Andy and Amy - we are so sorry for your loss.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: John Morgan

Tom was part of the initial CVHS crew that brought that school out of the ground. It was a great time. I had the pleasure of serving on the faculty with him for ten years, and fondly recall many practical jokes we played on each other and some great fishing trips. Tom and his family will always be a large part of the Chino community. From "Wolf Chili" to "Respect the Game", Tom walked the talk. It was about service and he instilled that in those kids. I was grateful to see him in the end and know that he will always watch over the field and players at Chino. It was a heck of a ride. Godspeed.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: Garye LaFevers

Tom was a great baseball man and a better friend to many of the coaches in Arizona. This is a sad day in the baseball world. God Bless Coach Pratt and his family

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: Garye LaFevers

Sad day in the world of baseball today!
Tom was a great coach and better friend.
God Bless him and his family.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: T. N. Tribbey

Coach Pratt was an amazing coach and teacher. He inspired and encouraged me to come out of my shell and to embrace life, hard work, and to give everything your full effort. His love of the game was only surpassed by his love for his students and players. He is one of my heroes.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: Patricia Allen-LaFleur

Our hearts are broken. Tom was an inspiring presence, both as my colleague at the high school and as a coach to our two boys. His humor, his passion for baseball, and his love and loyalty to his family and friends will be fondly remembered. Our thoughts and prayers are with Peggy, Andy and Amy.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Brown

A class act both on and off the field. It was a pleasure working for and with him during my tenure at CVHS back in the day. My condolences to Peggy, Andy and Amy.You will be missed Coach Pratt. R.I.P.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: James Tobin

I didn't know Tom well but had the privilege of meeting him several times. I got to watch the game when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gherig's consecutive games-played streak with him at my brother's house in Chino Valley. I loved hearing Tom's stories of being called up to the majors in the early 70's to cover players who had National Guard duty. He was the real deal a baseball lifer for sure, but more than that a great leader who influenced hundreds of young lives in a positive way. He truly deserved the title "Coach". Thoughts and prayers to his family. R.I.P. Coach Pratt.

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2012
Article comment by: Becky (Formerly Randosh) Wilson

Dear Peggy, I fondly remember, both, you and Tom from my years at Bradshaw Mountain High School. I had 1st hour gym class with you at one time. You've both been widely loved & respected for as long as I can remember. My brother, Rick, and my mother, Catherine, spoke so highly of coach Pratt in our home. I found all of it to be true when I met both of you during my years at Bradshaw. Everyone was in awe of the dashing, young, athletic couple - Tom and Peggy Pratt! Just recently I was reflecting on a speech I heard Tom give about believing in yourself. I can hear it in my mind as if it were yesterday. My sincere hope is that you and your children will find peace, comfort, & love in knowing how highly respected and loved Tom will always be.

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Article comment by: Rick Randosh

Dear Peggy & Boy's Tom was such a great mentor and coach. I played baseball for him at Bradshaw back in the day. Peggy you are also a wonderfull person. He will be a amazing guardian angel for all of you. Deepest Sympathy.

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