By Samuel G. Mustari, Greeley Tribune
Tom Petroff fought back tears.
They were the same ones he held back when his University of Northern Colorado baseball team upset then No. 1-ranked Arizona University to advance to the 1974 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. This time, Petroff’s tears of joy came with the news that he had been selected to be inducted into the prestigious Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is really an honor, and I just think that the guys who played for me at Northern Colorado are as big a part of this as anybody,” said Petroff, now retired and living in Chambers-burg, Pennsylvania. “I’m getting emotional just sitting here thinking of all the old memories.”
Petroff coached at UNC from 1970-1985, guiding the Bears to six NCAA Division I playoff appearances, including the 1974 berth in the College World Series. “He certainly deserves this recognition as much as anybody, and not just for his coaching abilities,” said Paul Gradishar, a former UNC player whom Petroff coached from 1974-77.
Irv Brown, a former college coach and current broadcaster and also a member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, called Petroff “simply the best there ever was, or is, in teaching fundamentals. There’s nobody better.”
Also, while at UNC, Petroff developed an educational physical sensory program entitled “See and Feel” for the hearing impaired. His UNC players instituted the program at the UNC Lab School with the hearing impaired students. Petroff continued the program at the University of Iowa, where he was an assistant coach and co-director of the Deaf Baseball Development Program.
Since leaving UNC, Petroff served as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa, and was the director of field operations for the Detroit Tigers. A world-known clinician, Petroff has conducted skills clinics in 40 states and in six foreign countries. He was the head coach for the Netherlands in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, and was invited to Holland several times in the last few years to help develop the skills of the Dutch National Senior Baseball team.
The late New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez called Petroff “a man’s man.” “I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime, but none quite like Tom Petroff,” Gomez said after an annual get-together with Petroff in the mid 1980’s. “He can speak his mind because he certainly knows what he’s talking about. I’ve never met a guy who is so well-tuned in the fundamentals of baseball. Tom Petroff is one of those baseball people whose mind continually works trying to think of ways to make this game better for the young people,” Gomez added. “He’s as smart as any baseball man I have ever met.”
Petroff has also had numerous studies published and copyrighted, including the Detroit Tigers Professional Baseball Club’s Player Manual. He comes back to Greeley several times each year to conduct coaching clinics for high school and youth league coaches, along with serving as an advisor for indoor baseball facilities.
“This is an honor I’ll really cherish because it represents a lot more than just myself,” Petroff said. “Every person I’ve had the pleasure to coach, teach or had any kind of positive influence on, shares this with me.”
I just think that the guys who played for me at Northern Colorado are as big a part of this as anybody.