WASHINGTON – Brad Holman, after playing pro baseball, returned to his home in Wichita to work for Boeing.
“I worked at Boeing for about five years as a mechanic and ironically I am still there at work on 9/11 when those planes smashed into the World Trade Center,” the Nationals’ pitching coordinator told Federal Baseball. “Here I am working on airplanes at the same time they are smashing into buildings.”
The ensuing decrease in air travel ultimately cost Holman his job – and helped spark his return to professional baseball as a coach.
“It was my demise as a Boeing employee,” said Holman, who pitched for Seattle in 1993. “That really caused the company to take a pretty big hit.”
Holman, about two months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was laid off by Boeing.
“Fortunately I knew some people with the Mariners,” he said. “I was looking for other options, not just a coach. I was applying for other jobs as well.”
As luck would have it, Steve Peck was on tap to be the pitching coach in 2002 with Appleton, Wisconsin in the Single-A Midwest League as part of Seattle’s farm system.
But with young children, Peck wanted to be home more and became a scout.
“Steve is still a friend of mine; he decided to get into scouting and he still is,” Holman said of Peck, a special assignment scout for the Boston Red Sox this past year. “I was able to jump right in.”
Holman, now 52, was the pitching coach in 2002. At the end of the next season a pitcher named Félix Hernández was added to the roster of Wisconsin.
“A strapping 17-year-old,” recalls Holman. Hernandez pitched in two games in the Midwest League that year, made it to the majors in 2005, won the Cy Young Award in 2010, and won 169 games in the majors.
Holman, after leaving the Seattle system, became the pitching coach for Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh’s system in 2008.
The Curve is in the same Eastern League as Harrisburg, a farm team of the Nationals.
Later he became a coach with Texas in the minors and was the bullpen coach of the Rangers in 2016-17. His contract was not renewed after that 2017 season and Holman had a job lined up to be the manager of Double-A Mobile in the Angels’ system when he had contact with the Nationals.
He informed Doug Harris, assistant general manager and vice president this past season with Washington, about the job offer from the Angels.
Harris told Holman to wait a few minutes and eventually they spoke again – and Holman was offered the Triple-A pitching coach post with Syracuse for the 2018 season.
Holman was on the same Texas coaching staff as Tony Beasley, a Fredericksburg, Virginia native who was a coach on the staff with Frank Robinson with the Nationals in 2006 and later a coach in the minors with Washington.
“I am sure they asked Beasley about me. It must not have been too bad” with his response, Holman said with a laugh.
The Kansas City native was the Triple-A Fresno pitching coach in 2019 and then was moved to pitching coordinator prior to this season.
Holman went to college in Alabama at NAIA school Auburn-Montgomery and was drafted in the 35th round in 1990 by his hometown Kansas City Royals.
Holman made his Major League debut for Seattle on July 4, 1993 against the Boston Red Sox. He went two innings and did not give up a run; the first batter he faced was John Valentin, and he retired Andre Dawson to start his second inning of work.
Later that season, in August, he was hit in the head with a line drive off the bat of Mario Diaz of the Rangers in Texas. He spent several days in a hospital in Texas before spending time at home and then joining Seattle in Toronto under manager Lou Piniella.
“It could have been so much worse. I thought I was in trouble. I was bleeding through my mouth,” Holman said. “Rick Griffin was the (Seattle) trainer and I could see the fear in his face.”
Piniella had Holman, upon arrival in Toronto, throw live batting practice with no protective screen to get over the fear of throwing to hitters.
Holman last pitched in the majors in October 1993. The right-hander – whose brother Brian also pitched in the majors – appeared in the minors through 1996, with a stop at Triple-A in the Baltimore system in 1995, before taking the job at Boeing.
Once again, in light of the pandemic, the airline industry and others, including the minor leagues, are in dire straits. Whatever the future holds, Holman clings to his Christian faith that was strengthened after dealing with the line drive that hit his head.
“I had this sense of peace, the certainty I have in my mind about eternity,” he said. “No one call tell me otherwise; I experienced it.”