Reporting Shane Kitzman
What Thomas wants – to get drafted to the big leagues courtesy of the shifty two-seam fastball that leaves opposing hitters searching for it on Google Maps.
No scoffing. Other MIAC stars have recently been drafted, i.e. Ben Hughes.
How does Thomas, a senior, get there? That’s already been a relatively winding road, but there appears to be a sunrise peeking out over the horizon.
The former All-State selection from Lakeville North took a freshman-year pit stop as a preferred walk-on at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he ended up needing shoulder surgery.
Following one semester in the sun, Thomas rehabbed his arm where he knew he’d get immediate reps — as a relief pitcher for the Des Moines Area Community College, a program that ended up playing in the Junior College World Series.
Hoping to snag a D-I school’s attention before his junior year, Thomas instead found his niche on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.
“They said ‘You’re going to be an All-American, and you’re going to be drafted,’” Thomas said of UST’s recruiting. “They had confidence in me. It’s close to home and it had good friends of mine, like Tim Kuznair.”
Last year, his first on the team, the Tommies took third in the nation, finishing 41-10, 19-1 in the MIAC. Thomas’ .358 batting average, .633 slugging percentage, in addition to 74 strikeouts and 2.25 ERA had a lot to do with it.
This year, he wants his No. 7-ranked squad to finish first — and the Tommies are currently 14-4 overall, and 2-0 in the conference.
What influential was junior college?
I think JUCO was one of the best things for me. We practiced every day for five hours. My coaching was phenomenal. It matured me. It made me more responsible for myself and for baseball.
Thomas got a small taste of the MLB lifestyle as part of the Northwoods League
I played for the Duluth Huskies. It was so cool. I had one of the best host families I could ever ask for. I would sleep until 9 a.m., go work out, go to the field, get ready for the game, play and then re-do it. Road trips were hotels and restaurants and playing baseball — the lifestyle I’ve always thought a real baseball player would be living.
He went years without hitting, but has become an incredibly dangerous dual threat
When St. Thomas was talking to me I asked, ‘Will I be able to pitch and hit?’ (Coach Chris) Olean said, ‘Yes, if you can prove it, you will.’
An NCAA championship is priority No. 1, even before getting drafted
We have a pretty tough road ahead of us. We split with teams like Whitewater, La Crosse, and Stevens Point. But with our pitching depth, we can pull through it.
The economics major aims to possibly be your financial adviser one day
I was an intern at UBS, and that sparked my interest in it. I think it’s the way I would like to go. If baseball doesn’t work out, I’d love to help people with their money and go that route.
He’s got his strikeout pitch ready, always
I have a 4-seam, a 2-seam, a curve ball and a change-up. I’ve worked on them for years with coach. My two-seam fastball moves three inches in and down on a hitter, making them ground out, or miss completely.
It’s not all just baseball and school
I went to New Orleans last year and helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity through St. Thomas VISION.
I also love golfing down in Lakeville at Brackets. My family just loves to golf.
Athleticism runs in the family
My parents were very good athletes. But I’m still not sure where my arm came from. My mom played tennis at Gustavus and my dad played men’s softball.
He’s a Zac Brown Band fanatic
I just love country music. My girlfriend brought me to their concert for my first concert ever and I just love their songs.