Malinowski: How Tom Emanski changed baseball — and then disappeared

From SABR member Erik Malinowski at on July 17, 2014:

As the players stood along the first-base line and waited to collect their medals, their coach —€” an intense 42-year-old who’€™d worked as a Major League Baseball scout and preferred V-neck sweaters, khakis, and brown loafers to a manager’€™s usual garb —€” clamped a scorebook under his left arm and clapped. For him, this championship validated a coaching career spent searching for validation, for the video-based analysis and research that he’€™d pioneered, for the techniques he was told were too radical.

Little did Tom Emanski know that AAU teams produced by his instructional academy would win two more championships in the next two years. And that his series of TV commercials, designed to sell a line of baseball instructional videos, would go national and ride the wave of these back-to-back-to-back AAU titles, making him both comfortably rich and somewhat famous. Tens of thousands of times over a decade, people watching any number of sports on TV could usually expect to see one name pop up during a given commercial break: Emanski. A sweetheart deal kept the commercials on the air and the orders rolling in, thereby ensuring that an entire generation of ballplayers grew up with Tom Emanski as the coach they never met.

But at the height of Emanski’€™s commercial success, nearly everything came to a full stop. Today, his academy is long shuttered, the ads relegated to memories and YouTube. Emanski himself has disappeared from public view. Some of his old coaches and employees haven’t spoken to him in 10 or even 15 years, but they still tell the story of a competitive, brilliant, and intensely private person who spent his career bent on proving his theories on baseball fundamentals and then, just when he’d garnered the very validation he’€™d been chasing, essentially declared he’d had enough.

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Originally published: July 17, 2014. Last Updated: July 17, 2014.