In today’s society of instant gratification, pride and determination are often overlooked in the quest for fortune and fame. Education sometimes takes a backseat to athleticism, and many talented hopefuls are content being one-trick ponies. But baseball great Andre Thornton Sr. stands tall as a role model for today’s youth, proving it really is possible to reach legendary status both on the field and in the boardroom.
Andre “Thunder” Thornton’s illustrious baseball career began in 1967, when he was 17 years old and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The African-American Tuskegee, Alabama native went on to play for the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Clubs, the Montreal Expos, and most notably, the Cleveland Indians. During his 14-year baseball career, the first baseman became an American League All-Star twice. He ended his career with 253 home runs, 244 doubles, and a batting average of .254. Thornton was also a recipient of the Silver Slugger Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, the Hutch Award, and was the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 1982.
Despite his long line of athletic accomplishments, Thornton’s achievements outside the stadium are just as impressive. He excelled in academia graduating from Capital University magna cum laude. And today, he is an all-star businessman with over two decades of experience. In an exclusive interview with TNJ.com, Thornton gave this advice to young entrepreneurs, “People think everything comes quick and easy. That’s a myth that society is portraying. Those people with a lasting footprint build a brand with deep roots, so when turbulence comes, your organization can still stand.” And Thornton has done just that. As a principle in Apple Partners, he led a restaurant management group that began with two restaurants, and expanded to twenty before selling the eateries to Applebee’s International. In 2002, Thornton acquired Global Procurement Management Company, specializing in management consulting and event planning. And today, the former first baseman is president and CEO of ASW Global, LLC, a supply chain management company based in Akron, OH.
While his list of professional feats seems endless, his roster of community improvement projects is even greater. Thornton decided to make Cleveland home instead of leaving town during the off-season like many baseball players, “A lot of players live a transient life. We didn’t want that,” he remarked. Thornton has worked to positively influence his area ever since. But instead of taking on all of the ills of his city, he keeps it as personal as he can, “I can’t impact the entire area, but I can influence the people I see everyday. If I cam impact my three sons, and they influence their circle of friends, as a residual effect, I can impact the city.” In addition to serving on numerous boards in the city like the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, he is member of both the President’s Council and Leadership Cleveland, both founded to better the downtrodden city.
A skilled golfer, Thornton both endorses a yearly fundraiser to benefit a free golf clinic near Chardon, OH and is involved with First Tee of Cleveland, an organization with the mission of promoting character development through golf. He has also co-authored a book, Triumph Born of Tragedy, which discusses his relationship with God and overcoming the misfortune of losing his wife, Gertrude, and 3-year old daughter in a car accident in 1977. Through this catastrophe, Thornton’s testimony has only grown stronger. “Faith plays a part in everything. It allows us to weather storms we face from day to day,” Thornton remarked. The devout Christian is a well-sought public speaker, extolling the benefits of a faith-based life. Thornton takes this work very seriously, “I prepare carefully for every speech. It doesn’t matter if I’m speaking to five or 1,000 people. When people come to hear me, I want to say something meaningful to them.”
Andre Thornton’s well-rounded autobiography serves as inspiration to all. Despite his many accomplishments, his most gratifying achievement is his family. “I’m almost 32 years married. My wife, Gail and I have three sons we are proud of. It’s important for African-American families to raise sons who will be fathers and have sons and daughters of their own. That’s how we can really build a legacy.” But when considering public awards and industry accolades, perhaps the Roberto Clemente Award Thornton won in 1979 is most apt. Given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team,” it’s hard to describe Thornton in any other way.