While the last name Malot has been synonymous with new home construction for decades in Southern Oregon, those closest to the late founder and namesake of Tom Malot Construction best remember him for his role in helping to develop some of the most renowned fast-pitch softball players in the region’s history.
His love of ball began as a boy, when he played on an empty lot near Jackson Elementary School — the same field where, as a contractor in 1970, Malot helped build facilities for the region’s baseball and softball players that was eventually dedicated as Fagone Field.
Well known for his involvement with the Jackson County Softball Association, and as founder, coach and sponsor of the black-and-gold clad Mudhens, Malot poured nearly as much of his time and energy into his love of softball as he did his construction and real estate businesses.
Thomas Edward Malot died March 29 at age 80 after lingering health issues related to a massive stroke that forced his retirement two decades ago.
Malot was born Nov. 28, 1937, in Las Vegas to Harvey and Louise Malot. He moved to the Rogue Valley as a child and attended Medford and Central Point schools.
While he identified as a Crater Comet (class of 1955) — he played football throughout high school for Crater — he graduated from Medford High after a school district boundary adjustment his senior year. Malot went on to serve in the Marines, where he also played ball, then returned to the Rogue Valley and began to build houses.
A man of few words who followed a strict routine, he was noted in a Mail Tribune interview in 1983 for having a high standard for players, according to former Medford mayor and fellow JCSA leader Ben Fagone.
Fagone told the Mail Tribune that Malot wouldn’t tolerate players “drinking or cussing.”
Malot at the time had donated some 200 softball trophies to Medford Parks and Recreation. In their heyday, the Malot Mudhens were the envy of regional softball enthusiasts, claiming 11 consecutive JCSA championships between 1971 and 1981, in addition to eight state titles.
Malot played for two years for a different team while still sponsoring his Mudhens so as not to detract from the caliber of ball. He told the Mail Tribune in 1963, “My best two years as a player were when I sponsored my own team and played for Deford’s. It was just to make a point to my own team. There was too much pressure to play on my own team.”
Longtime friend and fellow Crater High football player Harvey Tonn, who served as manager for Malot’s Mudhens for a half dozen years, said Malot was generous with his time and resources whether for softball or helping the community.
“It was a pretty elite team. We traveled and played 100 to 125 games a year, traveling every other weekend from Modesto to Boise, Idaho, to Seattle, and he sponsored everything, even our gas to get to the games,” Tonn said.
“He believed in families going together as a group, so a good part of the time when we traveled, our wives and families went with us, and Tom sponsored all that.”
A ballplayer until well into his 50s, Malot was “just a good guy, liked by everybody,” Tonn said. “Yeah, he built a lot of homes in the Central Point area, and he was known for the quality of his homes, but more than any of that he was just known to be a really solid guy and a big community supporter.”
Central Point native Darryl Summerfield, a former Mudhens player, said he worked with Malot and other local contractors after his softball playing days to develop courses in various construction trades at Crater.
“There was a great relationship between the kids and the different contractors,” said Summerfield, a former Crater shop teacher. “A lot of those kids benefited from taking that class and ended up being in the trade. Tom and Noel (Moore) were the two biggest Central Point builders at the time, but any time I needed help or had a question, they were there.”
“There was a side of him that was really competitive and, if he didn’t think you were getting the job done, he’d let you know about it,” Summerfield said.
Malot’s son Tommy Malot credited his father’s determination with his ability to persevere for 20 years longer than doctors expected. The younger Malot recalled being bat boy and fill-in player, donning the number zero, for which his dad bestowed the moniker, “Ought Malot.”
“He put up a hell of a fight for 20 years. He had a massive stroke he shouldn’t have survived, and he had aphasia, so it was really hard for him to talk, but with his will and determination, he actually got his driver’s license back and played golf and everything else. He was a pigheaded ex-Marine, and you couldn’t take that from him. He was going to fight to the end,” said Tommy Malot.
“He was a really, really good guy. He could be really hard core, but he was honest and fair and stern. He would tell us all to ‘stay the course,’ no matter how difficult.”
Malot is survived by four sisters, Jody Fields of Indiana; Jean Sterns, Lynn (Howard) Tally and Sandra Warner of the Rogue Valley; daughter Renee Driscoll (David); grandson Justin Driscoll; son Tommy (Tiffany) Malot; twin granddaughters Mallory Watt (Jacob) of Auburn, Washington, and Madison Malot of Phoenix, Arizona; and one grandson, Mitchell, who lives in Talent.
He was preceded in death in 2013 by his wife, Sandie, who helped run the Mudhens, Malot Construction and her own softball team, Malot’s Peppermint Patties. The couple were married for 54 years.
A celebration of life is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 21, at Community Bible Church, 500 N. 10th St., Central Point.