USC pitching coach Tom House grants a wish

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
3:32
PM PT
It started as a wish, but it became so much more.

When USC pitching coach Tom House first received word from the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles that a Florida high school right-hander suffering from a life-threatening illness wanted him to evaluate his pitching motion, he imagined it'd be a nice moment where he could lift up the spirits of a baseball fanatic, but nothing more.

House had no idea the anonymous Florida right-hander would end up being 16-year-old David Thompson, a veritable college prospect with unfathomable resolve.

Thompson suffers from common variable immune deficiency, an illness that has led to three stress fractures in his spine and all-around weakness in various areas of his body. Essentially, Thompson can't fight off normal aches and pains that a fully healthy 16-year-old of his stature would.

But, considering his age and frame -- his parents estimate he measures in at 6-foot and 160 pounds -- he looks normal on the mound.

Actually, scratch that. He looks abnormal on the mound -- abnormally good.

"I thought I would get someone who was very sick, who was probably just going to go through the motions and wanted to see something before they passed on," House, 63, said after Tuesday's 90-minute workout, held at USC's Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute. "To get a kid who is dealing with adversity and still competitive and still dreaming about college and pro ball -- and to be projectable in both -- was a very positive experience for me."

Thompson arrived at Dedeaux Field shortly before 1:30 p.m. earlier this week in a stretch limousine provided by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The foundation also flew him and his parents out from South Florida earlier in the week and treated Thompson "like a king" throughout, according to his mom.

The wish-granting process started in April, when Thompson was interviewed by foundation officials and revealed his most heartfelt wish to be to have his pitching motion evaluated by House. From there, chapters across the nation worked together to create Thompson's experience.

Upon arrival, Thompson suited up and delivered a variety of pitches in USC's home left-field bullpen under House's watchful eye.

Media members and Thompson's parents watched as House spouted words of encouragement in between pitches. Midway through, House offered "three and a half" minor tweaks to Thompson's delivery, the most prominent of which was a need for the right-hander to point his lead knee in the direction of a shortstop just after the start of his delivery.

After maybe 40 throws -- split evenly between a mid-80s fastball, darting curve and a circle change -- House took the festivities inside and outfitted Thompson with a host of sensors that measured his every move and created a preliminary video analysis of his pitching motion.

Within 48 hours, the Thompson family will have a full in-depth analysis to take home to Florida, where David hopes to build on his foundation and develop into a bona fide college pitcher.

He has time -- he hasn't even started his junior year of high school yet.

"I couldn't have thought of anything better," David said of the day with House as the events wrapped up. "This is perfect."

David, who turned 16 last week, has his eyes set on becoming a Hall of Fame pitcher. Mom Kay's aspirations are a little less lofty.

"He wants to play college ball," she said. "If he can just get an education and play -- he wants to play and he wants to be good, whatever that is for him.

"I want him happy, and it makes him happy to be able to play."

***

House, 63, went from being a full-time assistant to a volunteer this offseason. In this video interview, he talks about the wish-granting process and the possibility of recruiting Thompson to come to USC down the line:



***

Thompson's eyes lit up when he saw the computer depiction of his delivery on a computer connected to the high-tech equipment. In the video below, he talks glowingly about the experience with House and said he would have plenty to go home and tell his Flanagan H.S. teammates about:

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