Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Inspiration surrounds Sox's Thompson
By Doug Padilla
All his life, Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Trayce Thompson has been surrounded by successful athletes and the number of people he knows reaching the highest level of sports is growing quickly.
His father Mychal Thompson had a successful NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, while his brother Klay Thompson is a key contributor to the Golden State Warriors.
Trayce Thompson, a second-round pick in 2009, had trouble making contact in the Southern League.
Now Trayce Thompson is watching people he knows outside of the family make it big like buddies Gavin Escobar, a tight end with the Dallas Cowboys, and Nolan Arenado, who hit 10 home runs for the Colorado Rockies in his rookie season last year, and won a Gold Glove at third base.
Up with the major league team again this spring, it's only a matter of days before Thompson is sent back to minor league camp, but he will head back with a sense of confidence that he is on the correct path.
"I just feel like this offseason was big," said Thompson, who turns 23 on Saturday. "Last offseason I was thinking about Double-A and maybe spending a little time in Triple-A. But this offseason all I was thinking about was getting after it and getting that call, just getting up there and competing.
"It's not about getting there and saying 'I'm a major leaguer,' it's getting up there and helping the team and getting after it and competing and doing the best I can."
Thompson's first full season at Double-A Birmingham last year didn't go as planned. He batted just .229 with a .383 slugging percentage in 135 games. He had 15 home runs and 73 RBIs, a year after hitting 25 with 96 RBIs combined between the Single-A and Double-A levels.
But the Barons won the Southern League championship and during the course of the season he was able to see teammates such as Erik Johnson, Marcus Semien, Daniel Webb, Jacob Petricka and Miguel Gonzalez get called up to the major leagues, reinforcing to him that his goal is within reach.
Instead of contemplating what went wrong or what the future had in store for him, this offseason Thompson played winter ball in Venezuela, where he had just one hit in 22 at-bats, but was better off for the experience.
"I know the year didn't turn out how I wanted and how everybody else wanted, especially the second half, but I am definitely looking forward to this upcoming year," Thompson said.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Southern California native is part of a heralded bunch of White Sox outfield prospects, along with Jared Mitchell, Keenyn Walker and Courtney Hawkins, but that group collectively slipped in 2013.
All four outfielders were ranked among the White Sox's prospects last year, according to Baseball America with Thompson siting in the No. 2 spot. This year, only two of them were listed, with Thompson dropping to No. 8, while last year's No. 1, Hawkins, fell to No. 7.
It might seem like Thompson is regressing, but he doesn't feel that way. While his brother went right from the NBA draft and into the spotlight, Thompson is comfortable with the slower road baseball players take to reach the highest level.
"Every year is a learning process whether you're in the big leagues or in the minor leagues," Thompson said. "I was told from Day 1, and I've been hearing from everybody not just baseball critics, that I was pretty raw. I'm pretty realistic with my expectations."
Thompson knows, though, that it's time to refine those former rough edges now. He continues to make adjustments that will make him a better player, adding pieces to his game even when he is playing well.
He remains confident that his time is coming soon where he can be at his sport's highest level, just as his brother is. And if accomplishing your goal isn't enough motivation, he knows he can at least stop of the good-natured teasing from his siblings.
"My brothers come and see me play every summer," Thompson said. "They definitely poke fun at me because I go to see Clay and all these people come up to him and it's in the big city. Then they come to see me and it's the little kids that want autographs. They don't have too much fun with me but they have a little."
That's what brothers are for. Sure they can put you in your place, but in the case of Clay they can also inspire.
"It's definitely getting closer (to being a reality)," Thompson said of reaching the major leagues. "A lot of guys I've played with, even before pro ball, are in the major leagues now. And a lot of the guys I played with through my minor league career are up there. It's just time to go."