The Nationals stayed in the family when they signed middle infielder Quade Tomlin as an undrafted free agent this week.
Tomlin’s father, Randy Tomlin, was the pitching coach for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators in 2011, spending many years working with Nats prospects. Randy Tomlin was his son’s coach at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Va. During his tenure as coach, the high school has won three Virginia state championships and had been to the state finals during one run five years in a row.
Quade Tomlin, 18, decided to forgo a scholarship commitment to Liberty University to turn pro.
“Quade has been good coming up all along but did not really get any notoriety (early on),” Randy Tomlin said. “He was a steady player. As he hit freshman year, he really started to get noticed, especially as we started having guys that were getting looked at for pro. So there were a lot of scouts coming in pretty regularly. They started liking the way he did things and the way he swung the bat. They started asking more about him than guys they had come in to see.”
As a junior, Quade Tomlin hit .420 in 2019, with five doubles, nine homers and a team-high 47 RBIs. He sported an .913 slugging percentage for Liberty Christian Academy, which has had at least one player drafted or signed by a major league club in four of the last five seasons.
“He’s a guy they seriously look at,” Randy Tomlin said. “He showed the skills that he needs to be an infielder. He’s got really good hands and quickness and can play multiple positions within the infield because he has good arm strength. He swings the bat well, he swings left-handed. ... In three years of high school, he has hit 15 home runs. He has shown pop, not just with the aluminum bat but with wood bat.”
Quade Tomlin grew up focusing on the middle infield. Randy Tomlin made sure to practice him at all three infield spots so he could see what it would take to spin and turn and throw to first base from different angles and lengths.
“Once we saw that he could play infield, we worked really hard to learn the three positions, second, short and third,” Randy Tomlin said. “I told him, ‘You are going to be as good as you can be and let wherever you are at decide where you are going to need to go.’ A lot of the advanced scouts saw him as a guy that’s skilled enough he could play short, but probably second base would be kind of the primary. But certainly has the arm strength to play on the left side and even at third base. He is 6-foot, 185 lbs., he’s built pretty good.”
Quade Tomlin grew up on the fields in the Nats farm system and got time to work with big leaguers as a kid.
“We have pictures of him back in Viera, Fla., with Ian Desmond, working with him on infield,” Randy Tomlin said. “He grew up on the baseball field. He grew up as a little guy with those guys. That’s all he knew. He traveled with me while I was with the Nationals and knows what it’s like, the routine of minor league life. The early work, the extra work, the game, everything that’s involved that it takes to get to the big leagues. He loves it and we still do a ton of what we saw happening and what he did.”
Quade Tomlin had an offer in hand to play baseball at Liberty University, his father’s the alma mater. But after careful thought, he decided to go for the Nats’ offer to play pro baseball.
“He had an offer from Liberty and had committed to go there,” Randy Tomlin said. “We left the decision up to him. We certainly guided him and gave him advice. Quade’s desire and what he has always worked his whole life for was to get an opportunity to play pro ball and try to make it to the big leagues and be a big leaguer. That’s been his dream.”
The Nationals were genuinely interested in Quade Tomlin as a baseball player, and that commitment was serious this season with the club signing only nine undrafted free agents. For the Tomlins, it is a comfortable relationship.
“It couldn’t be a better situation,” Randy said. “He grew up on the field with me, with the Nats. There are a lot of the coordinators and managers still there. They are familiar with him as a younger child, but still got to know him a great deal. We already know a lot of the people in the front office already. It’s certainly a great situation - kind of coming back within the family. It was a trust factor, too, because he is giving up a lot as a high school kid to go now.”
And the Nats’ interest was not just because they were familiar with Quade Tomlin, other major league teams wanted him, too.
“He had other teams that were in him that had called,” Randy said. “He had some options, but the Nationals were by far the best choice because knowing the organization, knowing what they feel about development and how they develop players and the commitment they have to all the players, but also to the young kids.”
The family resides and works in Lynchburg, which is also the Carolina League home of a Cleveland Indians affiliate. So fast-forward a bit, especially with the Nats’ high Single-A affiliate now in Fredericksburg, and it would not be too hard to see Quade Tomlin play early on in his pro career.
“Certainly, that plays a great part into it as well because they got Hagerstown, Fredericksburg and Harrisburg all within three, four, five hours from us,” Randy Tomlin said. “We drove those anyway as I was coaching. That’s not a problem at all. As he climbs the ladder, he will be closer.”