I got a text from DK Pittsburgh Sports colleague Josh Yohe shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and immediately stopped in my tracks.
The text told me that MLB.com reporter Tom Singer had passed away.
It was hard to believe that Tom had passed away and I like many others checked to see if it was true. Unfortunately the answer was yes, he passed away just a couple of days before everyone found out.
I can honestly say that I’m extremely privileged to call him a friend. Yes I am using present tense here, and I completely mean it that way.
Though we had met a couple of years before, last season was my first on the Pittsburgh Pirates beat. Tom was in his fourth season with the Pirates and 15th overall with MLB.com.
If you take one look at Tom you see the pinstripe pants, suit jackets and hats. Only he could pull these various looks off. He truly was one of a kind and I mean it in the absolute best way. This made Singer who he was and it was some of what endeared him to the players.
There are different ages and experience levels in the PNC Park press box but that did not matter to Tom. He was a friend to everyone in the press box and was always willing to eat the press dining soup of the day with you.
The thing that set Singer apart many of the other journalists was how he treated the young journalists, myself included. He was a friend to everyone, and I mean everyone in that press box. He was always up for a talk and offered a friendly smile.
Last season, I immediately saw what every other reporter who has met Tom already knew, he had a love for baseball that was unmatched. He approached the game in a way unique and different from anyone else in that press box. He had stories galore and was always ready with a fact that would even stump Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
As the season progressed, Singer and I developed a bond and frequently were two of the last writers in the press box each night.
Each day the routine would be the same. I would come into the press box and Tom was the first if not one of the first to greet me. We would catch up in the clubhouse and he always checked to see if everything was okay.
The highlight of my time getting to know Tom was the road trip we took together to cover the Pirates series against the Tigers.
Tom had a set playlist on his iPod and there was a 30 song or so collection on it. Singer, born in Pittsburgh of course snuck the 1960’s Beat ‘Em Bucs song in there and I never questioned it. It made total sense, he was a fan of the game and always the historian.
What I did question however was his next song on the playlist, Mariah Carey’s Shake It Off. I can definitely say I did not see that selection coming from Tom, nor did I expect to hear him sing to it. Of course he wrote “Shake It Up” on the iPod and I jokingly never let him live it down.
It was all in good fun and he knew that. In fact, he took it lightly and each time we passed each other for the rest of the season we would sing the song according to his version.
To this day, I still break down laughing each time I hear that song because I think of Tom.
Tom also was a big support system for me. Both of us approach the game in a different way and explore stories and concepts which others do not think of or consider. We each have the thirst for knowledge which was fulfilled with these articles.
He would ask what I was working on and I would pitch it to him. He would always nod his head and approve. Even in the clubhouse I would on occasion tell him my game plan and he would always support me.
Tom always read my stuff and told me he learned something several times, which is the ultimate compliment.
The last time I saw him was the last game of the season and we had a nice talk and handshake before parting ways. Though he would not be the Pirates beat reporter for MLB.com next season, he promised that our paths would cross again soon.
I last heard from Tom on Twitter when he responded to a tweet from Dejan Kovacevic. He called me “the goods” and “hardest worker in that (press) box”.
Words cannot express what both of those words of praise mean to me. Once again, a compliment from Tom means the world.
Tom and I often would talk to players before and after games on and off record. Each conversation was a treat and showed me how much the players trusted him.
I can say I spent several hours trading stories with Tom over meals in the press room. If you can imagine, no story ever repeated.
Every journalist in PNC Park has a Tom Singer story and those were some of mine.
Despite the health struggles he went through, Singer was always sharp as a tack and an almanac of sports knowledge. I can honestly say I learned so much from him as a person and writer.
Tom loved sharing and interacting with everyone about the game he loved. Anyone that commented fairly and/or constructively on his articles had a good chance of hearing back from him.
This is a very sad time for everyone who knew him. He worked until the very end and his last tweet was about Spring Training, a sign that he was excited for what was to come. His final reply was to Pirates closer Mark Melancon at 8:03 this past Monday evening.
My condolences to Tom’s family, especially his wife Malvina in such a difficult time. His memory will live on for years to come and I was privileged to meet and get to know him just a little.