Walpole High Community Rallies Around Tompkins

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Senior Captains pose for a photo of their new buzz cuts.

Peter Hoegler

Senior Captains pose for a photo of their new buzz cuts.
Senior Captains pose for a photo of their new buzz cuts.

In his 34-year tenure as Walpole’s Varsity Baseball coach, Bill Tompkins has seen it all: from those years when our entire town couldn’t stop talking about awe-inspiring seasons, to the years of talk about nothing but scandals. So with the good comes the bad—and this year is no exception.

Almost a year since recording his 500th win as WHS Baseball Coach, 61-year-old Tompkins has recently been diagnosed with cancer—a diagnosis that not only shook the baseball team but the school and the community as well. And in response to this recent news, the students and the faculty have come together to give Tompkins the support he needs during his first rounds of chemotherapy.

After his diagnosis, Coach Tompkins chose to keep his health a secret from the school. Only until halfway through his first round of chemotherapy did speculation arise in the hallways and lunch rooms.

During that time, Coach came into school and participated at practice when he felt well enough to do so. In the first week of May, Tompkins missed his first practice in his 35 years of coaching—an unspoken feat any coach would like to boast about.

Tompkins has shown great persistency and perseverance since his diagnosis and is determined to beat this cancer. Head Basketball Coach Dave St. Martin said, “Tompkins went to our banquet and told me to not say anything [about the cancer] because ‘the night was all about the kids.  That is just the type of guy that he is.”

“I cannot say enough great things about him,” said senior Captain Johnny Adams. “Even though he is fighting cancer, Tompkins still shows up to as many practices he can and is extremely determined to beat this illness. I am very honored to be his captain this season.”

Ultimately, it was senior Captain Cam Hanley’s idea that the entire Baseball team shaved their heads in honor of Coach Tomkins. So, at senior Mike Gaughan’s team dinner a few weeks ago—after prom, of course—the players and coaches gave each other buzz cuts to build team unity. Thus, in the this year’s postseason the Baseball team looked as fierce and turbulent as ever.

The Freshman Girls Soccer Coaches have also stepped in to help foster community unity by making t-shirts that read “Rebels With A Cause” on the front and “Strikeout Cancer” on the back. At first, the t-shirts were only going to be worn by coaches; however, people wanted more and more shirts so now they have opened the sale up to everyone. The coaches committed an initial order of 200 shirts, many of which were already designated for the baseball teams.

“Our goal was to have the WHS coaches unite in a show of support at the first baseball playoff game,” said Danielle Aikens. “Baseball is Coach’s passion and we believe it was an appropriate place for us to show him we stand behind him in his fight.” All the proceeds from the t-shirt sale will go to cancer research.

The Baseball team were the first to wear the t-shirts at their practice before the North Attleboro game. Then, a day later, Tompkins saw the entire fan base at Eldracher Field wearing the shirts. “We tried to keep it a surprise but we thought it would just be better if we were the first ones to show him,” said Adams. “He was still surprised to see all of our parents with the shirts on though.”

This State Tournament was not about winning or losing — it was about a community showing solidarity for Coach Tompkins during the most turbulent time of his life; the man whose resiliency has brought the town together for over 30 years.