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Remembering Tommy Hanson

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The former Braves star and River Cats pitcher was 29.

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I mostly remember Tommy Hanson hanging out with Clayton Blackburn. It seemed like before every game in Sacramento, they'd come in together from the clubhouse in left-center field, ambling in far enough from the stands that they could talk without any fans hearing them, and heading for the dugout. As for what they might have been saying to each other, the possibilities are endless; they could have been talking about baseball or life or just how dang big Tommy Hanson was. Blackburn isn't remotely a small guy – Baseball Reference lists him as 6'3" and 230 pounds  – but Hanson made him look tiny.

Logically, that couldn't happen every game – there were games when Hanson was starting, or Blackburn was starting, or one of them was charting (usually with Chris Stratton, who charted every game kdl and I went to, and that's barely an exaggeration) – but it's what stands out to me.  Hanson wasn't especially effective on the mound for Sacramento; he had a nice run of four starts to end the year, but otherwise his results were more miss than hit. But before every game you'd see Tommy Hanson out there with Clayton Blackburn, a veteran talking to a prospect, a friend talking to a friend.

Tommy Hanson died last night. It was sudden, and it was shocking, and there's no sense to be made from it. Tributes started coming in last night, and I'm sure more will follow. He signed with the Giants in May, quietly enough that you might not have heard about it. There were veterans who, upon not being called up to the majors in September, took the last week off and went home, but Tommy Hanson wasn't one of them. From all accounts, he was a great teammate and a wonderful person to be around. Players in the Giants organization sure seemed to love him:

Tommy Hanson didn't pitch well for the River Cats last year, and his future was up in the air. He was one of those veterans who had a moment in the majors, but then Something Happened and he wasn't as good anymore. There are a lot of those guys kicking around, many of them on the Giants' AAA roster. Near the end of the year, their roster included Kevin Frandsen, Brandon Hicks, Everth Cabrera, Joaquin Arias, and Nick Noonan, and that's just on the infield. All of them were chasing the dream of making it back. Two of them did, just this year. Tommy Hanson might have thought that next year it would be him. They all think that, at least somewhere in the back of their minds. They have to, even when they know the odds.

Maybe Tommy Hanson would have been back with Sacramento next year, or maybe he'd have signed somewhere else. Maybe he'd have finally found whatever he used to have, or maybe he would have given up the dream. Maybe he'd have become a pitching coach down the line, or maybe he'd have made a mark in something other than baseball. Yesterday, there were a thousand possibilities. Today, there are none.