News Release, Atlantic League of Professional Baseball
(Waldorf, Md., Aug. 5, 2019) – The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and the Atlantic League (ALPB) announced Monday that they will donate the cleats worn by Tony Thomas to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The cleats will be the second Atlantic League artifact donated to the Hall of Fame in as many weeks following the donation of an earpiece from the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) on July 25th.
On July 13th, 2019, the Blue Crabs outfielder, Thomas became the first player in the history of America’s pastime to steal first base. Per the Atlantic League’s partnership with Major League Baseball, batters may “steal” first base on any pitch not caught in flight. On an 0-1 pitch, Thomas watched a ball sail past the Lancaster Barnstormers’ catcher, Anderson De La Rosa. De La Rosa did not move to retrieve the ball, and after a moment of hesitation, Thomas took off for first. When his red and white New Balance cleats with the initials “TTJ” struck first base, he went down in baseball history as the first to steal first.
Rick White, President of the Atlantic League, said “It was just a matter of time until an enterprising batter seized the initiative to take first base on a wild pitch. Tony Thomas was the right player at the right time and will forever be known as the first player to steal first!” Blue Crabs General Manager, Courtney Knichel added “Tony Thomas, the Blue Crabs, and the Atlantic League are now and forever engrained into the roots of America’s pastime. It’s incredible to be a part of a first in a game with so much history.”
Upon hearing the news of his Cooperstown bound cleats, Thomas said, “I feel honored to be accepted into the Hall of Fame. We play this game to be there, no matter how you get in. It’s a blessing that something that I did will be a legacy that lasts forever.”
Stealing first base, the ABS, and a sum of additional rule and equipment initiatives designed to improve the game of baseball are a part of the ALPB/MLB partnership and will remain in ALPB play for the duration of Atlantic League’s Championship Season.