There are 590 people in the town of Tenmile, Ore., just south of Roseburg off of I-5. It’s one of those places, former Ducks baseball player Caleb Tommasini says, where if you blink, you’ll miss the town. The biggest store is the Chevron gas station and your closest neighbor might live a mile down the road.
Tenmile is small-town Oregon at its best. It’s also the place where Tommasini and his six siblings learned how to play sports. His oldest brother Kevin played football and baseball at Arizona State from 1995-97 before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1997. His youngest brother John is a sophomore at Oregon State, where he started 16 games at second base for the Beavers. His sisters Rachel and Sarah both played collegiate softball, the former at Oregon and the latter at Oregon State.
Caleb is also an accomplished athlete, garnering all-state honors in football and baseball and all-league honors in basketball during his four years at Douglas High School. In college, he walked on to the Oregon State football team in 2004 and 2005, before transferring to Oregon where he played on special teams for the Ducks from 2006-07. If that’s not enough, after not playing baseball since high school, he decided to try out for the newly instated Duck baseball team and not only made the team, he started.
But this is where Tommasini’s story digresses from the storybook path of continuing to excelling at athletics and ultimately going professional.
The same time he was playing football and baseball, he decided to make the most out of his college experience. Tommasini started out as a pre-med major before making the switch to computer science. After awhile he decided to major in business finance, which he finally earned a degree in last winter with a 3.53 GPA.
He’s written pro sports off for good and now the question for Tommasini is whether he’ll go to business or law school. For the latter option, he’d like to stay at Oregon.
“I thought about it a lot,” Tommasini said. “I’m 23, going to be 24 in the fall. If I didn’t get drafted this year, I’d be one more year older next time. Baseball is one of those games where you have to put in the time at the lower levels. If you go in at 23 you have three, four years to make it or you just get pushed aside, whereas if you go in at 20, you have seven years to make it.
“The clock was kind of running out. And if you look at both sides of it, if I can get a MBA or a law degree, I’ll be a lot better off. I think it’s a smart decision.”
Tommasini’s prudent way of reflecting on his own abilities as an athlete and realizing his future was outside of sports hasn’t been hard for him. He saw the writing on the wall and realized playing the percentages wasn’t a smart gamble.
“You can never count on sports,” Tommasini said. “What percentage of college athletes make money in pro sports? Yeah, we had a few guys drafted, but how many of them make the bigs? Or make $1 million a year? If you rely on something that is that unreliable, it’s just poor judgment … If you get a degree then you’ll always be set up over those who didn’t — even if they played sports.”
“He’ll talk your ear off about what he wants to do,” Director of Baseball Operations Luke Emanuel said. “We’ll have good conversations about the LSAT and those other tests, then he’ll go into the Wall Street and investment side of things and I have no clue what he’s talking about. In fact, I might go to him for advice on how to invest my money.”
Emanuel, a 2008 graduate of the School of Law, latched on with the program after head coach George Horton was hired. He’s in charge of compliance with the NCAA, academics for the athletes, and pretty much whatever Horton needs him to do. He says Tommasini is a role model to the other athletes who complain about practice and school being too much.
“He never made it a concern that academics and sports were so hard to juggle,” Emanuel said. “He challenged himself. It’s just incredible that he’s studied for all these master’s tests like the GMAT or the LSAT. He’s always had his head on straight.”
Horton also commended Tommasini for his work ethic off the field, saying that he was an all-around leader at the University, whether in the classroom, on the diamond or during summer workouts.
“I think it’s a great story of how he walked on and started for us,” Horton said. “He’s an Energizer bunny and it makes him better in class and in life. I hope more and more people realize how special he is. Caleb talked the talk and walked the walk.”
This summer, Tommasini has been focusing on the GMAT, which he is set to take on Sept. 22. Then he’s got the LSAT a month later. He spends his days working out at the Casanova Center and reading test preparation books.
“I want to get on Wall Street. That’s the goal,” Tommasini said. “I’m shooting as high as I can. I’m trying to get into the best school I can.”
Emanuel says Tommasini’s ability to switch majors and paths is something more people should learn from because he didn’t get stuck in something. He tested out the waters until he found something he liked. And Emanuel has some advice for a way that Tommasini could get the best out of both worlds.
“He should do the JD/MBA program here at Oregon,” Emanuel said. “It’s fantastic because it’s four years. You combine them and you get both degrees. I continue to recommend this to him, especially because he doesn’t know what he wants to do. They have a fantastic one here. It’s through the Warsaw Sports Marketing Program.”
Whatever Tommasini chooses to do, one can guarantee it will be big-time. He’s gone from a town of fewer than 600 people to playing football games in front of 60,000. His next ambition is New York City and the millions of people there.
“I don’t think I’ll finish in New York, but I’ll be there for awhile,” he said. “It’s the finance capital of the world, and if I want to do finances on the big scale there’s no place other to be. If you really want to be in the mix of the big corporate setting, that’s the place to be.”
“He doesn’t set his goals low,” Horton says. “I wouldn’t count Caleb Tommasini out of anything he chooses to try out.”