The summer showcase circuit helps put a lot of players on the map. But last summer, during a game on July 9 at the 2010 World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championship—commonly referred to by scouts as East Cobb—a player was nearly removed from consideration.
Carl Thomore, an athletic outfielder from East Brunswick High in New Jersey, was on second base for his summer team, the New Jersey Twins, when the opposing pitcher tried to pick him off. The throw sailed into center field and Thomore broke for third. But as he was sliding into the bag, his left cleat got caught in the dirt, which dislocated and fractured his ankle.
Just like that, Thomore's baseball dreams were up in the air.
"I knew it was bad when I saw the other team praying for me," Thomore said.
The break was bad and Thomore's foot was beginning to turn purple. Luckily, an orthopedic surgeon happened to be watching the game and ran out onto the field to offer assistance. He knew a decision had to be made quickly and offered Thomore this choice: We can call an ambulance and you can go to the hospital, but there's a chance you'll lose too much circulation in your foot, which could lead to serious complications. Or we can set the bone right here, right now.
Thomore didn't hesisate: Do what you need to do, doc!
"The pain with that, with no medication or anything—just a cloth in my mouth, laying on third base—was probably the most pain I've ever felt," Thomore said.
Thomore said he doesn't even know the doctor's name.
"I think his son was actually playing on our field for the next game and he was just watching the end of our game, but I thank God everyday that he was there," Thomore said. "I wish I could shake his hand and thank him for everything. It only took two minutes, but for him to come out and do that when he didn't even know me, I really appreciate it. . . He saved my baseball career."
The injury happened three weeks before Thomore was set to play at the East Coast Professional Showcase and the Area Code Games, so he didn't get a lot of exposure this summer. He had surgery and a metal plate inserted into his ankle and was back to doing baseball drills ahead of schedule, getting back to baseball activities in January.
"It's great to be back on the field," Thomore said. "After my injury, that's all I was thinking about and it just feels great to be back out on the field, playing the game I love again. Even with all the scouts and the professional stuff aside, that's the best part—just getting back and playing."
Thomore hasn't let the injury affect his play. He still goes all-out and gives 100 percent when he's between the lines.
"For people that haven't seen me play that will come to see me play, I would just say they'll enjoy it," Thomore said. "And I'm not saying that because I'm cocky in any way. I'm not saying I'm going to hit home runs, but I always play the game real hard. I'm an old-school kind of player. I wear stirrups still. I take everything I can get. Yesterday, we were just playing a scrimmage and I asked my coach if I could steal home, just because it would help us win. That's who I am. I play the game really, really hard and that's how I'm going to continue to play it for a long time."
Having the game taken away from him this summer put things in perspective and lit a new fire under him to succeed. But he's been through much tougher things in the past—in 2005, his mother passed away after a battle with breast cancer.
"His sophomore and junior year were pretty consistent, he was just kind of a solid, good player," East Brunswick head coach Tom Hockenjos said. "And this year it's like an amazing transformation. He has just blossomed into an incredible baseball player. He's put on muscle and he's gotten a little bigger, and just his confidence and his focus and his drive and desire are just so much keener and stronger this year."
In the winter, Thomore was hitting the gym and going to a baseball training facility nearly every day, on top of school and physical therapy for his ankle. Now that his high school season is starting up, Thomore isn't working out at the facility as often but still goes to a speed trainer three times per week.
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Thomore has a muscular physique with the enticing combination of power and speed. He plays center field and bats and throws righthanded.
"He's not playing real good competition and we haven't seen him in the big showcases, but speed and power are plus tools for him right now, it just has to translate to the game at the next level," an American League area scout said. "This kid is as motivated and driven as anybody I've been around as a scout, as far as high school players. He's going to draw the comparisons to (Mike) Trout, locally. But Trout was a finished product—more of a pure hitter and had all the tools and you saw them in the game. But their bodies are a little different and Trout's game was way more polished and he was an advanced hitter.
"Carl can hit, but if you compare him to somebody now, he's kind of like Hunter Pence. It's a little unorthodox swing and he's got some hand movement and a leg kick to his stride. He's got those long limbs and a bony frame, but he's big and physical at the same time."
East Brunswick begins its regular season on April 1. So far, in the preseason, Thomore has five home runs over seven games.
"I've been around 33 years and he hits the ball harder than anybody I've ever seen," Hockenjos said.
While there are many scouts present each time Thomore takes the field, getting drafted isn't his goal—it's bigger than that.
"I feel like I'm getting hungrier every day," Thomore said. "The draft is a great thing and it's an accomplishment to get drafted, but that's not my goal. I don't want to get drafted and you never see me again. I want to make it to the pros and I want to be a professional baseball player everyday. That's my honest goal. The draft is just the beginning. Getting drafted doesn't mean you're successful, that just means you could be successful in the future, if you work hard."
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