Celebrity Drive: Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Thome of ‘MLB Tonight’

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Quick Stats: Jim Thome, Hall of famer/analyst, “MLB Tonight”
Daily Driver: 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty (Jim’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Illinois country roads
Car he learned to drive in: 1967 Chevy pickup
First car bought: 1989 Chevy Z71 pickup

When it comes to a daily driver he can count on, outdoorsman, five-time All-Star, MLB Network analyst and baseball hall of famer Jim “Gentleman Jim” Thome is an American car guy all the way—with his diesel-powered 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty diesel.

“I love Ford. Being a bigger guy and having brothers and buddies, baseball guys that are all bigger guys, it’s great. The room in it is amazing,” Thome says. “The ride, that diesel is just incredible. In the summer, when we go to all my son’s youth baseball, I just throw all the gear in the back go.”

Thome gives it a 10 on a scale of 10, calling it the perfect ride for his weekend home. “When I go to my lodge and I go fishing, I’ll do my hiking and biking and all that great stuff, I just throw everything back there and just go. I love it,” he says. “It rides great on the highway. When I’m in the city, it’s so long, I need to be careful when I do take it into Chicago. Hopefully my next purchase will be the Ford Raptor, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Thome

One of the Ford’s drawbacks means the vehicle requires just a bit more attention. “The only thing I would say I dislike most about my truck is that it’s black and I’ve got to wash it constantly,” he says, with a laugh. “But when it’s clean, it’s the best, it looks incredible. With the snow, it seems like I’m taking it twice a week to get it washed. But as far as the truck goes, no issues at all.”

Thome says he’s been loyal to Ford F-Series trucks, for the most part. “I did have a GMC—that Denali, I had that maybe nine years ago and loved it, but I just love the way the Ford rides,” he says. “They’ve upgraded it, the dashboard is upgraded, the headlights are new compared to the old model. Ford does a nice job at keeping the little things that the buyers want, they pay attention to. Those fine details are great.”

He relies on the Ford to support his outdoor lifestyle, whether he’s hunting, fishing, or mountain biking. “My wife has a Denali and she actually has a Jeep as well,” Thome says. “We’re SUV people; we like to load the car up with kids and equipment and go.”

Thome also has a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, noting that he always wanted to own a Jeep. “I bought it for the summer time to tool around and put my mountain bike on the back and go.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Thome

Thome gives the Jeep an 8 out of 10. “It’s obviously got bigger tires, it’s not as smooth of a ride as my Ford,” he says. “I think Jeeps are made to tool around and be in the outdoors and take off-roading, which I don’t really do, but for what I do, it’s an incredible, incredible machine.”

It’s hard not to compare it to the Ford, though. “For me, I like my F-350 because it’s so smooth on the highway. It’s a big Cadillac, it drives like a car. The Jeep is a little more bouncy, but when it’s May, June, and July in Chicago and I take the top off, it’s a little bit [better than] my truck. Just going and getting coffee two miles away, locally here, I love my Jeep.”

Car he learned to drive in

Thome grew up in Peoria, Illinois, where he learned to drive in his dad’s 1967 Chevy shortbed pickup truck. “It was yellow, orange, it looked like at one point somebody used it as a paint truck,” he says, with a laugh. “I just remember it had different colors on it, so when he came, I was like, ‘There’s dad again, in the bright orange and yellow truck.’”

The only thing Thome remembers from those driving lessons were “safety first,” he says. His parents then bought a late 1970s or early 1980s Pontiac Phoenix for Thome as his high school car.

Thome has lots memories in the Phoenix from those school days. “Going to football games and going to basketball practice and always saving up and trying to have enough gas money to make it through the week,” he recalls. “Growing up in Peoria, every Friday night we would go to McDonald’s there in Bartonville.”

Of course, there are always a few little things one must deal with when it comes to having an inexpensive first car. “One time the door handle may have snapped, so I had to go in through the other side,” he says. “I think your first car is always the car that you appreciate.”

First car bought

Thome got rid of the Phoenix when he turned pro in 1989, getting a new Chevy Z71 pickup truck. “I just loved it. It fit my price scale of what I could get, it was great. I had that two years and then I ended up getting a 300ZX. The Nissan 300ZX was a stick shift.”

A 1991 Nissan 300ZX is shown above – learn more about the 1990-1996 300ZX here.

Thome was already with the Cleveland Indians when he got the 300ZX. “I just loved driving it, and I think when we’re all young we tend to go toward the sports cars,” he says.

Being in the major leagues meant Thome was on the road a lot and wasn’t driving his new sports car. “In the winter time it stayed home and then … my dad would drive it out to Cleveland,” he says. “Dad probably drove it a little bit which was cool. I think he enjoyed it as much as I did it, to be honest.”

Favorite road trip

Thome’s favorite road trip is the one from Chicago to his lodge. “As I’ve gotten older, there’s so many places that I’ve gotten to [see], like around Tennessee, Charlotte’s got some beautiful areas, Colorado, some of the views traveling through Colorado are gorgeous,” he says. “In the summer you see the corn fields and the Midwest where I grew up, around Peoria, so I love it coming through there.”

Photo: MLB Network

The drive is as much about what the destination means to Thome as the scenery it provides. “It gives me time for all the craziness in my life and traveling and the baseball life,” he says. “Where I go to my retreat, whether it’s with my family or me alone for me, I love that drive because I know what’s at the end when I get there. As we all age you start seeing things differently and this is something that I love. I love the drive. Just being outdoors mainly and family gatherings, having buddies over, I love it. It’s just a getaway place to go hang for however long you want and then come back.”

Thome also enjoys the country roads around the state. “Those two lane back country roads, coming down 55 through Peoria and then the back roads,” he says.

MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight”

Photo: MLB Network

Thome was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot in January and will be formally inducted on July 29 in Cooperstown.

On the Emmy-award winning “MLB Tonight,” Thome gets to work with former teammates including Sean Casey.

After doing this for a year, Thome says he now has a lot of respect for analysts. “The thing I love about it the most is teaching the viewers some of the great things you’ve been blessed to learn over your career. If you can pass along information to a dad to his son or daughter, that’s what it’s all about,” he says. “It’s a lot of information that you want to give and report and give honestly and pay attention to what’s happening in baseball, and follow up on it and share your knowledge of what you learned for years and years and pass that along.”

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