Monday, February 3, 2014

Interview Part 1: Tyrone Horne, Always Treasured

A Tampa Yankee connects against the Palm Beach Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. in 2011. Tyrone Horne spent his first season in West Palm Beach, with the GCL Expos. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Always Treasured | Part 2: Pretty Shocked

Tyrone Horne was tired. He just didn't feel right.

It was July 1998 and Horne was playing for the AA Arkansas Travelers, the team visiting San Antonio. He was also having a good year. But maybe he just needed a day off to get himself well again.

Then he got to the ballpark and he changed his mind.

"I thought, 'you know what? Screw it,'" Horne recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently. "'I'm going to go ahead and play."

He did play. And he had the game of his career.

Not only did he go out and hit four home runs, but he did it in such a way that no one in the history of baseball had done and no one has done since.

He hit for the home run cycle: A solo shot, a two-run shot, a three-run home run and a grand slam. All in the same game.

"That's something that I've always, always treasured," Horne said.
A Palm Beach Cardinal crosses the plate in 2011 in Jupiter, Fla. Tyrone Horne played in the Cardinals system in 1998 and had his best season. (G21D Photo)
Horne spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his home in Idaho. Horne is now an assistant high school baseball coach. He also has hopes of getting back into the pro ranks as a professional coach.

Horne talked about his career, from his youth in North Carolina, to turning pro out of high school to trying to make his way up the minor league ranks to the doorstep majors.

He told about how an assignment with the Expos and rookie resulted in Horne finding a new home state in Idaho, one where he remains in 2014.

He also told about that one night in San Antonio, the night where he wrote himself into the professional baseball record books as an Arkansas Traveler.

Horne grew up in a big family in Troy, N.C. He learned to love sports from his siblings. In high school, he played football, basketball and baseball. But the sport he eventually made a living at wasn't his first love, he recalled.

"Baseball wasn't my main sport," Horne said. "I really loved playing football. Football was probably my best sport."

But he was good at baseball, too. Scouts even started coming around. He recalled when the first scout expressed interest in Horne, doing so by telling Horne's coach.
Olympic Stadium in Montreal in 2002. Tyrone Horne was drafted by the Expos and played seven seasons in the Montreal system. (G21D Photo)
Horne started to see the possibilities. He also just felt honored that a professional scout was there to look at him.

He also recalled trying his best to make the scout's visit worthwhile.

"I acted like I didn't see the person, but I made it a point to let him know how good I was," Horne said with a laugh.

What made Horne finally choose baseball, though, was an injury.

Horne recalled being recruited by Clemson University. Had he stuck with football, that's where he would have gone.

But, in his final high school football game, Horne broke his ankle. It was the first injury he ever received playing football. It also made him reevaluate his sporting path.
The former Thomas J. White Stadium in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Tyrone Horne played at Thomas White in 1993 as a member of the West Palm Beach Expos. (G21D Photo)
He started thinking about all the other injuries, the hurt knees and ankles, he would get, if he continued in the more physically demanding game.

"That's something I didn't want to have when I got older," Horne said.

So when pro baseball came calling, Horne was ready.

He remembered being at the beach with classmates when word got to him that he'd been drafted. The Expos took him in the 44th round.

"I was really excited, I really was," Horne said. He remembered his first call was to his mother.

Then the 18-year-old Horne shipped off to the pros. His first destination was Florida and the Expos' entry in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

His first task: Make the transition from high school in North Carolina to a professional baseball organization.
Community Field in Burlington, Ia., in 2010. Tyrone Horne played at Community Field as a visitor in 1992 and 1997. (G21D Photo)
"The first year, you've got to eat, sleep and drink baseball," Horne said. "That's what we had to do."

He also made some fast friends, guys like Gary Adams and Jeff Ramsey. "Not having them with me would have been hard," Horne said.

For 1990, Horne got sent out on loan to the independent Pioneer League team in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the Gate City Pioneers. Horne wasn't sure what to think about the assignment. Idaho might as well have been another country, he joked.

But he played well. He hit .282 and stole 23 bases. He credited his manager Eddie Creech with helping him along.

"He was hard on me, but he taught me a lot of things," Horne said.

Horne also did something else in Idaho. He met a woman. After being called up to short-season Johnstown, Horne thought he would return home to North Carolina. Instead, he found himself back in Idaho.

Go to Part 2: Tyrone Horne, Pretty Shocked

Part 1: Always Treasured | Part 2: Pretty Shocked

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