Tommy Schaff is a businessman first. However, he has found the perfect way to combine his business instincts with his love of baseball, giving him the opportunity to make his passion part of his profession.
Schaff, 56, is the managing partner of Major League Sales, a sales strategy consulting and training firm based in St. Louis. He has been able to structure his company in such a way that everything relates to baseball, whether it’s his Five-Tools Sale School [Virtual] Event or his Nine Innings Sales System. The success of his company has allowed him to indulge one of his hobbies – collecting bobbleheads – while also immersing himself in the game he loves.
Talk to Schaff and he is quick with a story, whether it’s about purchasing a certain bobblehead – he has a bit more than 5,000, almost all of which are baseball – or his work with Field of Dreams, the site in northeastern Iowa that bears the name of the popular baseball movie starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. Schaff is an investor in and board member of the Field of Dreams and, as a result, has had the pleasure of meeting and playing with scores of former ballplayers and actors who have participated in games and fantasy camps at the site.
Schaff is also hopeful of purchasing a Northwood League franchise and moving it to the Field of Dreams, where he can attend all the games and revel in the sport he loves. It is also a sport he rediscovered as an adult.
“I had, at one point, 25,000 baseball cards but I sold then to pay bills and I went into a baseball funk,” Schaff said. “In 2012 or 13 I thought maybe I should figure how to make a living as a sales trainer and combine that with my former passion for baseball; I love baseball so I should do it.”
Schaff, who has met and or played with 62 Hall-of-Famers by his estimate, also decided to make a list of stadiums he wanted to see a few years back. That morphed into seeing how many times he could throw out the first pitch which led to him deciding on a bobblehead collection. And it was not to be just any collection. He wanted to have more baseball bobbleheads than anyone – a feat he is close to accomplishing.
“I started just a little over three years ago and now I probably have a little over 5,000,” he said. “I had eight, then I had 16 then a buddy of mine that I helped did a really bad thing. I wouldn’t charge him for the help so he gave me $5,000 in EBay certificates. As you could imagine, I bought a ton of bobbleheads. I started figuring out what I wanted and got 150, 160 of them.
“Then it was how many is the world record like in the Guinness Book of Records. Let’s go beat that. The Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum [in Milwakuee] has 10,000 but it’s not just baseball. I haven’t met anyone that has more than 5,000 just of baseball. I do have a three-foot Carson Wentz next to my desk because I’m from a little town in North Dakota and Carson is from that area. It’s cool to have a local kid by my desk.”
Schaff has started setting up his office according to categories. He has all the pieces associated with the movie Sandlot and says that ‘you can never go wrong with Star Wars’. He has about 125 of that genre. He has also had the good fortune to have interviewed some of the women who played professionally during the war and as a result has the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League set.
When the movie Major League was celebrating its 30th anniversary, Schaff invited Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernson – three of the movie’s stars – to Field of Dreams to play. He also decided that he needed to get the Major League bobbleheads put out by the Akron Rubber Ducks.
“I was thinking now I have to pay a fortune to get the Akron Rubber Ducks bobbleheads,” joked Schaff. “While I was looking for those, though, I found an ad for someone who had a 10-foot bobblehead that TBS used for baseball games. Three of them were painted and this one wasn’t. I bought that in October of 2019 and I figured when my son was going on college visits, I’d go to Ohio and pick it up on my way home.
“Last year, on March 12th, I was in Indianapolis and the next day the whole world was shutting down. I thought I’m not going to get to Ohio. But I rented a truck, drove from Indianapolis to Columbus, picked up the 10-footer and drove back to St. Louis. That was my last day of traveling because of CoVid.”
That’s just one of Schaff’s many stories. He has scores of them, like the time he met his boyhood idol, Rod Carew. The former Twins second baseman and Hall-of-Famer was near death a few years back. Schaff met him during his recovering from multiple organ transplants.
“I told him how much I loved him and he hugged me even though they [his people] said don’t touch him,” Schaff said. “He signed one of my favorite bobbleheads and he signed the box, ‘Tommy make a difference – Rod Carew’. You can buy that bobblehead for $38 but that moment was the highlight of my life.”
Satchel Paige and the former Negro Leagues stars also hold special meaning for Schaff. He has a section in collection dedicated to the league that includes several dozen bobbleheads, 500 signed pictures and a ball signed by both Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. On a more personal note, his cousin married Preston Bankhead, whose father’s cousin Dan Bankhead was the first African-American pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Finally, Schaff has an idea about his bobblehead boxes that he says is “dumb enough to be cool”. Since he has 5,000 boxes in a storage unit, he wants to take pictures of each box and put them like colors on a pallet to create a much larger picture, or work of art.
“My goal is to do a big 3D pop art piece,” he said. “I’ll take 5,000 boxes and sort them out so they can be put in the right place like pixels. You’ve seen it done before with photos but this time it will be done with bobblehead boxes. When you get far enough away from it, you’ll have perspective and see that it is a baseball theme.
“It can travel around the country and for about eight minutes that you’re looking at it, you’ll think it’s crazy. It sounds kind of stupid but that’s what I want to do.”
Seeing how unstoppable Schaff has been with his business, his career and his passion, chances are he will make it work.