Patriotic Reyes Recovers, Departs

 

Xiao Dai/New University

We know him as “Tommy Reyes,” the fourth-year social science major and starting second baseman for the ’Eaters who finished his senior season with a .292 batting average with 54 hits and 36 runs scored.

While he’s just Tommy to us, his family calls him “Tomino” (pronounced like domino), and the ’Eater faithful is familiar with Super Fan’s cheers for “Rey Rey” every time No. 3 steps into the batter’s box.

Just a few days ago after the ’Eater season came to a conclusion at UC Davis, Reyes took down the nametag from his locker that read “Tommy Reyes, No. 3, second base.”

“That was one of the weirdest things,” said the soon-to-be graduate, “taking off [my] nametag.”

After a team meeting that the players expected to be about paperwork, the coach gave a speech, thanked the seniors and instructed the team to clean out their lockers. After spending so much time at the ballpark for practice, games and conditioning, it seemed surreal to empty out the locker for the final time. For Reyes, baseball at UCI was so much more than just the game.

The dedication and enthusiasm Reyes brings to the athletics, is the same attitude that Reyes embodies in all areas of his life.

“[Baseball] takes a strong mentality — it’s a game of failure.  Your mental aspect of the game has to be pretty high, you’ve got to be able to accept failure and stay positive,” said the 6-foot-1-inch second baseman.

Having played a number of sports since grade school, athletics were popular in the Reyes household. At just 3 years old with curly, dark hair down to his shoulders, Tommy joined his three older brothers Johnny, Danny and Robby for roller hockey. Tommy would take the face-off, and the older boys would battle it out for the duration of the game.  Following in his brothers’ footsteps, Tommy played football, soccer and basketball, but quickly fell in love with baseball.

At Bishop Amat High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Tommy was declared the MVP after hitting .523 in his senior season and was named to the first-team All-Del Rey League twice. Before committing to a university, Reyes debated between UCI and UCLA, but chose to be an Anteater after touring the campus and talking with Assistant Coach Pat Shine.  Reyes was attracted to the relationship the coaches had with the players, and liked the focus on developing the players that came through the program.

Reyes sealed his fate as an Anteater and moved into Camino in Mesa Court with roommate and teammate, Jordan Fox.

Just as classes began in the fall of 2008, so did conditioning for the team, which meant training at 6 a.m. Deemed one of the most difficult things he has ever had to do, Reyes notes that the countdown to the season began.

In the spring of 2009, an ’Eater jersey hung under a “Reyes” nametag in the locker room for the first time.

“I remember the first game of the year, you kind of get the chills, get excited. Not so much nervous, but just amped up,” Reyes said.

Now three years later, Reyes has taken Cicerone Field for the last time.

“Your first game, you’re kind of worried about messing up, you want to make sure you do things right. I noticed in my last game that I was just trying to have fun, and living every moment, every pitch.”

When it comes to appreciating the present moment and the opportunities at hand, Reyes’ final campaign has taught the youngest brother of five siblings what it means to understand the significance of a moment.

Midway through the season, Reyes received news that his older brother Robby, a crew chief in the Marine Corps, had passed away during a training accident in Morocco. Tommy missed a few games to be with family, and upon his return, found solace in baseball.

Knowing his brother would want him to play, Reyes was nervous about the questions he would receive back in Irvine, and was unsure on how to handle it.  However, it was his supportive team that welcomed him home.

“It was like I didn’t miss a beat,” Reyes said.  “Everyone goes through things in their life, I know I’m not the only one … and now I play for him.”

Now the playing of the national anthem holds so much more significance and is a time Reyes will always think about his big brother, Robby.

Being back in the ballpark not only helped Tommy, but also brought joy to his entire family. With his parents in the stands, Reyes belted his second home run of the season (and just his second as an Anteater), noted as his most proud moment with the club.

While his older brothers and sister, Valerie, have always been an inspiration, baseball continues to bring the Reyes family together whose support led Tommy to UCI, and eventually to the moment he was asked to clean out his locker, and take down his nametag.

“I found a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know I had in there.  Every little thing had its memory,” Reyes said.

After reaching his hand to the bottom of his locker, Reyes pulled out a ball that he had autographed during one of the first weeks of the season.

“A little kid had asked me for a signed ball, and I signed it, went to go give it to him, but I couldn’t find him so I had just thrown it in my locker. I pulled it out and was like, ‘Oh, wow, that was so long ago.’ Makes me see how time flew by.”

Five years from now, when Reyes thinks about college, he’ll think about long bus rides, games, clubhouse talk, the team and baseball.

While this season marked the last time “Reyes” will grace the ’Eater line-up, or a nametag in the locker room, it means Tommy is off to play in a different ballpark, or an even bigger stadium where he can once again hang his jersey for the first time.“Looking back, it was fun, I don’t have any regrets,” Reyes shared. “I would come here again if I had another choice.”

So where does Reyes see himself in five years?

“Ideally, playing baseball,” Tommy said.