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There’s not much baseball left in Andre Thornton these days. Today, Thornton uses business speak much like he talked baseball when he was an All-Star for the 1982 and 1984 Cleveland Indians. No, today Andre Thornton is all business as the new chairman and chief executive officer of ASW Global. His offices on Gilchrest Road here in Akron show no signs that Thornton was heavily engaged in baseball for 14 professional years. There are no signed
baseballs, bats or any other kind of sports memorabilia. In fact, Brett Jones, one of ASW Global’s key employees, didn’t know that Thornton was the Andre Thornton until one of his associates mentioned it in a passing conversation.
Thornton was signed as a first baseman and later in his career was a DH for the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos and finally for the woeful Cleveland Indians, a team that finished no higher than fourth place in the American League during his nine-year stay with them. With the Indians, Thornton was a two-time All-Star who led the American League in homeruns, RBIs and batting average.
But there was another side of Andre Thornton that most baseball fans never saw. He had studied to be a businessman ever since baseball gave a young kid from Tuscaloosa, Ala., the chance to go to college. It was in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Thornton to a minor league contract. That contract, in order to protect the team’s investment in training, gave him a full scholarship to college and induction into the National Guard, where he was expected to spend a couple of days a month in service to his country, securing him a draft deferment for all circumstances. He was also expected to participate in all baseball activities like hitting, pitching and catching. He wasn’t exempt from that.
And through all his experiences in the business of baseball endorsements, sponsorships, contract negotiations and separate business dealings, Thornton learned to negotiate the halls of business. Because of his hard work, talent and intelligence, Thornton became a leader in the local community where he has lived for more than 30 years as well as one of the league leaders while playing for the Indians. When he retired as an Indian in 1987, he was ready to do “business” full time.
Thornton takes his Christian faith seriously and ministers to groups nationwide. He stays involved in Tribe activities such as old timers games, but today Andre Thornton is a businessman first. During his days as an entrepreneur, he became the managing partner of a group of 20 Applebee’s restaurants. He ran Global Sports and Promotions Inc., a specialty products distribution company before the October 2007 formation of ASW Global, which was a combination of both ASW Distribution and GSP. As chairman and CEO, Thornton is involved in the day-to-day operations and helps make decisions on how to solve problems, find answers and develop supply chain solutions for customers who need supply chain management. Customers like Wal-Mart, Goodyear and Rubbermaid and many others who need someone to take care of how their product gets to their retailers in a timely and economical manner come to companies like ASW Global to do that.
An anecdotal example of Thornton’s separation from baseball came when we asked him if he could bring a baseball bat to the photo shoot for this story. He didn’t have one.