Penn State Alum Tommy Viola Taking Lifelong Love For Baseball Into Minor League Role

Most kids who grow up playing baseball dream of one day being on a professional diamond, but for Tommy Viola, the dream was always to work in baseball.

Viola grew up in Brooklyn and often attended Mets games with his dad Tom. When he was 10 years old, Viola and his family moved to the Poconos, and the love for baseball that Viola had followed.

He began attending Wilkes-Barre Red Barons games, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, where he got his first look at the minor leagues. Viola saw players such as baseball legends Derek Jeter and Darryl Strawberry, loving the opportunity to see those players before becoming stars.

Time went on, and so did Viola’s love for baseball. Viola also participated in Penn State baseball camps during the summers before his junior and senior years of high school, which were hosted by then-head coach Joe Hindelang.

“I loved every minute of [camp]. It gave me an opportunity to stay in the dorms, see the campus, go around the area, and get familiar with State College,” Viola said. “This is really when I fell in love with Penn State, and I knew that someday I’d go there.”

Despite the desire to attend University Park, Viola began his college journey in the fall of 1999 at Penn State Hazleton, where he was a member of the baseball team, traveling to play against other branch campuses, an experience he described as “awesome.”

After a two-year stint in Hazleton, Viola transferred to University Park as a journalism major but didn’t continue his baseball career.

“I didn’t try out, but I kind of wish I would’ve. I would’ve loved to have been a walk-on, but I didn’t. My baseball playing days were certainly over at that point,” Viola said.

Upon graduating from Penn State in December 2003, it became time for Viola to begin applying for internships, and there was only one avenue he wanted to pursue: baseball.

While searching, Viola also spent time as a DJ at State College bars and nightclubs, where he recalls many fun memories.

However, it didn’t take long for him to give up the fun of DJing to continue chasing his dreams of working in baseball, as he secured an internship early in 2004, becoming an unpaid photographer for the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A affiliate. Although it was a tough task that forced him to drive from State College to Altoona for every home game, it was Viola’s step into the door of minor league baseball.

Now, after 20 years and several positions in minor league baseball, Viola remains in the field, currently serving as the vice president of communications for the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox — a position he has held since 2012.

“I had the opportunity of a lifetime to come out here to Charlotte, North Carolina, to become the director of media relations. It was a big career move for me. I had just gotten married, and we decided this would be a great opportunity to move to Charlotte and someday raise a family,” Viola said. “I’ve been here ever since — going on 13 years. Through the years, I’ve moved up, and for a kid that loves baseball, it’s been a dream come true.”

In his current role with the Knights, Viola works long hours to complete a plethora of tasks such as writing press releases, reaching out to media, doing TV and radio promotions, making graphics, running the team’s social media, and organizing press box staff.

“I love it. It takes a lot to do it. There are long days. The baseball season is very long. You really have to love it, and I do,” he said.

Viola currently lives in Charlotte with his wife, Angela, whom he met the day before beginning a job with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in 2008, their five-year-old son Anthony, and eight-year-old daughter Alessandra. Viola’s parents also moved to North Carolina when he took the job, and he was proud to share his work with them, especially his father.

“None of this would have ever been possible without my parents. My dad, his love of baseball he instilled into me, and he did so much for me in my life, and he worked so hard. He sacrificed so much so that I would have this life,” Viola said. “[My parents] were just so proud of my job, and it was my dad’s dream to be around baseball, and he was so proud. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple years ago, but my mom is still here with me, and it’s just an amazing thing.”

While he may not be on the field, Viola is living the dream he once had as a little leaguer.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Michael Siroty

Michael Siroty is a freshman from Westfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism. When he isn't writing articles or making TikToks for Onward State, Siroty is either taking a peaceful walk around Beaver Stadium or at his summer day camp job. You can contact him to discuss your sushi order or music taste on Instagram and Twitter @msiroty or by email at [email protected].

You’re On Your Own, Kid: Megan Dougherty’s Senior Column

“Every puzzle piece didn’t just fall into place before. I found where it belonged. And I can do it again.”

Financial & Life Skills Center Offering Tools To Help Penn Staters Achieve Financial Success

The Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center offers the resources to help students, alumni, faculty, and staff achieve their financial goals.

Student Freebies You May Not Know Come With Tuition Fees

If you’re struggling to make ends meet as a college student, consider checking out these free resources and services provided by Penn State.