Rusty Tillman played for seven major league organizations (New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers), including making his MLB debut with the New York Mets in 1982.
Despite a modest major league career – 38 games/61 at-bats — he excelled professionally, playing in 1,146 minor league games/.297 BA/82 HR/209 SB.
Tillman was drafted by the Mets in the 10th round of the 1979 amateur draft out of Florida Community College at Jacksonville and, in 1982, made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. He singled in his first big league at-bat. He was later sent back to Tidewater, returning to the Mets in September. He would get only one hit in 12 at bats in the month.
After multiple injuries, Tillman decided to step away from baseball after the 1989 season. But his life story was just beginning.
In 2008, a Florida newspaper reported you were homeless. Tillman was living in a tent in the woods and, according to the story in the Florida Times-Union, the former Mets prospect was “selling your blood plasma for spending money. At the time, all you reportedly owned included blankets, a radio and a battery-operated unit that delivers shock therapy to your knees. You slept with a saw blade and a kitchen knife for protection. He has nothing left from his baseball days. No player cards. No uniform caps. No money.”
Tillman has since turned his life around. He is working, has a roof over his head and his family. He tells his story on the latest podcast.