To Thomas Girdwood, success is no stranger. Girdwood has collected all types of honors, including several First-Team All-SoCon picks throughout his college career. He is also a 15th round selection of the Minnesota Twins, but Girdwood modestly attributes his success to his mother.
During his freshman season at Elon, his mother, Maggie, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in April of 2008.
“That is my fuel for everything I do,” Girdwood says. “Taking that pain and flipping the switch on and closing out a game or getting under the squat rack, whatever I have to do.”
Maggie Girdwood put together a bucket list after finding out that she was diagnosed with cancer. “She got to make it to one game, my freshman year, and that was her final goal.” Days later, she passed away.
Thomas found out what had happened while the team was traveling home from a series in South Carolina.
After getting the horrible news from his father, he got back on the team bus and rallied his teammates,
‘”Let this bring us together. Don’t let me regret spending the last year of my mother’s life at college, playing this game. Let’s go out there and let’s win it [the next game],’ and (chuckling) I really don’t think we lost two games after that speech. We won our tournament, won the SoCon, went to regionals and I’m pretty sure everyone on that bus either texted me or e-mailed me that night…The feeling of knowing that I had the support of 40 different guys that I could go and talk to at any time, as a freshman, it was a great feeling.”
Although Girdwood lost his mother, he says that he puts all of his grief into his pitching. Thomas has the reputation of turning into a whole new person when he comes out of the bullpen to pitch.
“People wonder what goes through my head; close games, the weight room, whenever, when I’m a different person and I turn into an animal and I tell them that’s a chip on my shoulder…that’s never going to leave.”
Each game that Thomas plays, he does something special after his jog on to the field. Girdwood kneels down behind the pitcher’s mound and says a prayer.
“I take my hat off and set it down with my glove and basically I just thank God for blessing me with the ability to play this game and the family that he’s given me. I pray that he gives me the strength to be a fighter like he gave my mother in the last year of her life and then I pray to my mom and I ask her to be with me; tell her that I need her and I love her.”
As he puts his glove and hat back on, he kisses his necklace, which displays his jersey number (37) as well as a small baseball.
“My mom bought me the necklace with my numbers on it my freshman year and after she passed away, she was cremated and this baseball has some of her ashes.”
After paying tribute to his mother whenever he takes the field, Thomas said he’s not worried about anything and that it gives him the confidence he needs.
“I know it’s more than just me on the mound; I got the guys behind me and I know that I have my mom behind me,” Girdwood said.
Through this tragedy, Girdwood has learned one of the biggest life lessons that a person can learn. “You have to cherish the time that you do have with the people around you – tomorrow’s not guaranteed, for anybody.”
Thomas has experienced something that many his age do not experience. From this, one can appreciate all the people closest.
“Every pitch I throw, I treat it like it’s going to be my last one. Every day of life could be my last day and I take that even further with my relationships with friends and family.”