HALL OF FAME: TIM MEAD SAT NEXT TO HANK AARON, INDUCTED FRICK WINNER

Tim Mead, a Highland, Calif. product, wound up as president of the Baseball Hall of Fame after a 40-year career with the Los Angeles Angels.

From Highland to Anaheim to Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — It’s a far cry from Hibiscus St. or Colwyn Ave., where Tim Mead grew up in Highland over four decades ago.

His current address — 25 Main St., just a short hop from Otsego Lake in this upper state New York community where baseball’s early roots were planted over a century earlier.

On the weekend of July 20-21, the former Highland resident — a 1976 graduate from San Gorgonio High — was presiding over the 2019 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductions.

“I’m just trying to stay out of everyone’s way,” he joked a few days after the smallish upper state New York town came to life while inducting Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Harold Baines, Lee Smith and Mike Mussina into baseball immortality.

Mead didn’t even hesitate.

“The Hall,” he said, “is everything anyone ever imagined.”

Throw this in for Halladay, whose death last year took center stage at this year’s inductions: “Brandy’s speech,” said Mead, referring to Halladay’s widow, “made a difference.”

Lost, perhaps, beneath the spectacle of those July 21 inductions was a banquet honoring some 58 living Hall of Famers, with Mead and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred among the ONLY “civilians” at the Otesaga Hotel.

“For an hour and a half, I sat next to Hank Aaron,” he said, “asking him what his favorite stadiums were to play in and about the pitchers he had to face.”

The Otesaga, looking out on the lake, near where the Susquehanna River begins, is right around the corner from the museum itself.

“This is the elite of baseball history,” he said, noting they were “accomplished legends.

Mead said, “I’ll treat this (Hall of Fame) group just like the clubhouse in Anaheim.”

In other words, he won’t be sharing any private conversations, like the ones he had with Aaron, or the one he had with Sandy Koufax.

“I asked (Aaron) his favorite ballpark,” said Mead, “and where he liked to hit.”

It was one of Mead’s first official duties as Hall of Fame president to induct now-deceased broadcaster Al Helfer as this year’s Ford C. Frick Media honoree on Saturday, July 20.

“I’d just gotten back from the Tyler Skaggs ceremony,” said Mead, referring to the L.A. Angels pitcher whose untimely death hit the team hard.

It was an Angels’ team Mead had worked for since 1980, having retired after the 2018 season. He was immediately tapped to take over in Cooperstown for the retiring Jeff Idelson.

“I’d been to the Hall of Fame three times before,” he said, rattling off the years 1996, 1999 and last year (2018), “for Vladdy (ex-Angel Vladimir Guerrero).”

Angels fans might recall that it was 1999 when Nolan Ryan was enshrined.

ROOKIE HALL PRESIDENT

Mead’s duties at his new position include watching over historians, librarians and curators that are typically associated with any museum. He’ll stay in constant communication with all 30 MLB teams, living Hall of Fame members “and their families.”

His growing-up digs on Hibiscus St. to his current post, 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, N.Y., should probably be considered a standout transition. 

Hibiscus is right around the corner from Central Little League, which may not have existed in Mead’s youth days.

Upon his family’s move to Colwyn Ave., Mead was a little closer to San G, where he famously didn’t make the school’s Varsity baseball team. He’d been prepping for it his whole life, playing in Highland Little League, PONY League, Colt League and Big League, which is Little League’s age 16-18 division.

At San G, he was sports editor for the school’s newspaper, The Oracle.

Bill Havard, the school’s junior varsity coach, convinced the varsity coach to allow Mead onto the JV squad as a senior, which isn’t considered rational since a senior JV player might be taking playing time away from another player heading for a possible varsity roster spot.

Havard, who went on to prominence coaching in Redlands over a 46-year period after leaving San G, was tied to Mead from that point on.

The Spartans were highly competitive in baseball that Mead was cut from the Varsity in each of his four seasons under head coach Bill Kernan.

He quickly recalled his “friends for life,” including Ted Rozzi and Spartans’ 1977 CIF hero Tim Miner, plus former Cal State San Bernardino coach Don Parnell.

“I graduated,” said Mead, “a year before they (San G baseball team) won it all (in 1977).”

That might’ve been a San G Hall of Fame moment, but Mead had his own Hall of Fame pathway. Four years after graduating, he surfaced as an intern for the California Angels after his days at Cal Poly Pomona. Forty years later, he retired as an Angels’ executive. His years in various roles proved more than enough to land Mead as Idelson’s successor.

“It’s a chance to celebrate,” said Mead, “and to say thank-you. That’s what the Hall of Fame is about. A portion of (the ceremony) is to celebrate a great career, but what it’s all about is that it’s a greater chance to say thank you.

“They (inductees) write those speeches,” said Mead, “and you learn a little more about each person. They expose themselves quite a bit. The whole process is very humbling … for everybody.”