Remembering 2012: Profile of Revolution reliever Adam Thomas
It may be the slowest time of the year for Revolution news, but we still have plenty to post here in case you missed it during the season. As we did last year, we’ll be posting a different column at the beginning of each week from the past season of the York Revolutionary Times in case you missed an issue at the ballpark.
For Family and Not for Fame
Revs’ Thomas baseball career brings him back to York for a second go-round
By Ron Gardner
So…when is enough really going to be enough? It’s a question that Revs reliever Adam Thomas ponders every single day he continues to put on a baseball uniform.
It’s not that he doesn’t still love playing the game at age 33. He does.
It’s just that other things in his life matter more these days. Plus the fact that continuing his baseball career means continuing to have to make some really painful decisions.
Like the time last October when Thomas had to leave his wife and newborn son on a Wednesday in a Dallas hospital because his Mexican League team, Caneros de los Mochis, basically told him to be there by Saturday or don’t bother coming. Just imagine your boss calling you with that sort of ultimatum.
“The season started Oct. 11 and my son’s due date was Oct. 19,” the 6-4, 190-pound Thomas said. “I told them that from the beginning. I signed my contract and they wanted me to go down there and I was going to close for them from the beginning. They started losing and the bullpen was giving up some games. So the pressure for me to get down there was a lot greater. If they were winning and (I) had a couple more extra days – that would have been a lot better. So we induced on his due date and he came, and two days later when my wife was still in the hospital, I had to go.”
A 47th round draft pick of the Anaheim Angels in 1999 out of St. Petersburg (FL) College, Thomas left knowing wouldn’t see his wife and son until he returned home for the Christmas holidays nearly two months later, but winter ball paid well and he needed to support his growing family.
“It was extremely rough to know that I was leaving with my wife and son still in the hospital,” Thomas said. “And to rely on someone to get them from the hospital to our home was difficult and to know that my wife was going to be at home by herself with our newborn and not have any help. We have no one in Dallas, TX. We have nobody – we have no family (there). We have maybe a handful of people that we know.”
With the help of a family friend and revolving out-of-town family members coming in to stay with Carlie and Tristan, things went OK at home while he was gone and Thomas pitched well in Mexico, tying for second in the league with 15 saves.
His strong work in winter ball, coming on the heels of an impressive All-Star season in the Atlantic League with the Road Warriors in 2011 (1.73 ERA, 17 saves), earned him an all-too-brief opportunity with the San Francisco Giants in spring training this year. Following his release by the Giants, Thomas was back in the Mexican League pitching in eight games for Vaqueros de la Laguna, before signing with the Revolution. 2012 marks Thomas’ second tour of duty in York, having pitched briefly for the Revs at the start of their inaugural 2007 season, but he was signed away to a minor-league deal by the Oakland A’s before Sovereign Bank Stadium was ready to host its first game.
That 2007 season proved to be turning point in Thomas’ life, both in and out of baseball. The year before (2006), Thomas pitched well, earning his way up the minor-league ladder in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system, finishing out the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. But on the final day of spring training in 2007, after having been told he would be one of the starters for their Double-A team, the Dodgers released Thomas.
That led to his quick stopover in York with Revolution, followed by stints with the A’s minor-league affiliates in Stockton (A+) and Midland (AA) in 2007. When the A’s released him after the season, Thomas had experienced enough of life in the minors. After playing for 16 different teams in eight seasons, including time in five different independent leagues, Thomas decided to end his playing career to go to work at a baseball academy in Dallas.
“(I was) just frustrated, not with myself, but the expectations of organized ball,” Thomas said. “After Oakland didn’t sign me back, I was frustrated because I wanted a home – an organizational home where I can excel. (But) I think it stems back to getting released by the Dodgers.
“After the 2006 season when I finished up in Triple-A, I went to Venezuela and put up some good numbers in winter ball as a starter and I got offered to come back to the Dodgers and I threw well in spring training. They told me I was going to start in Double-A as the third or second starter and (then) they released me on the last day of camp as I was packing. I was upset because I thought I did what I needed to do to stay within an organization and help not only myself, but them.”
His new role at the baseball academy meant a good, steady paycheck, and Thomas continued to pitch once or twice a week, mostly for fun and to keep in shape, in a local men’s league. That’s when fate interceded to rework Thomas’ life even further. One day at the apartment complex where he lived, he was working out with friends in the complex’s weight room when he first saw his future wife Carlie, who was working as one of the complex’s assistant managers in the office next door.
“Before I even said one word to her, I told my friends I was going to marry her,” Thomas said. “That’s the girl I’m going to end up marrying. Meeting her just helped me grow to be a better man, helped me to become more mature. Through her I found God. She made me a better person. That’s one of the smartest decisions I ever made was giving up baseball and finding my wife.”
When the economy turned sour, donations to the baseball academy dwindled sharply, resulting in staff being laid off. That’s when Thomas decided that a comeback as a player might be his best option of earning a living. But after three years out of baseball, there were limited opportunities available for him. He called several Atlantic League teams looking for a job. He even contacted league commissioner Joe Klein, who told Thomas that the league was bringing back the Road Warriors for 2011. Perfect, said Thomas.
“Three years is a long time, but my agent said it best – it was three years that I didn’t pitch, but it was also three years that I didn’t pitch,” Thomas said. “That I didn’t have the wear and tear on my arm (and) that I didn’t have the mileage on my arm.”
With the Road Warriors last season, Thomas demonstrated he could still be highly successful against Atlantic League hitters, and the Revs were all too happy to sign him to improve their late-inning bullpen corps.
“That’s what we had in mind for him,” York pitching coach Mark Mason said. “We know he closed all last year, so we knew he’d be a back-end guy. If you’re on a good roll sometimes, you need more than one closer, especially in close games. Your closer’s not going to throw five, six nights in a row – it’s kind of hard to do that.”
If things go his way, Thomas is hoping to become “another spare arm” that a big-league organization will sign to eat up innings for their minor league clubs as the annual rite of pitchers being sidelined with injuries plays out once again. At age 33, Thomas no longer dreams of pitching in the big leagues. His aspirations are much simpler these days, more pragmatic – to earn a little more money by playing in affiliated baseball, maybe even get some health insurance for him and his family.
“I think if I throw the way that I’m able and capable of throwing that I could get picked up by an affiliated team,” Thomas said. “Then the money can come, and then the insurance, and then the positives can come out of baseball.”
While Major League players certainly get lots of notoriety signing those huge multi-million-dollar contracts, most minor league players, including those in the Atlantic League, are certainly not getting rich.
“It’s the polar opposite,” Thomas said. “Unless you’re drafted in the first five rounds (by a big-league team), you really don’t make that much.”
Salaries for Atlantic League players average about $2,000 a month during the six-month-long season, with the maximum salary topping out at $3,000 a month. That’s not a lot of money to raise a family on and what drives Thomas and many other players to look for opportunities to play outside the United States all year long.
“This game can take a lot out of you, but give so little back,” Thomas said, adding that he’s even looking for a part-time job in York that can do in the morning during home stands, just to earn a little more money. With that extra income, he’s hoping Carlie and Tristan can fly up for a visit in York during a long home stand.
“I’m looking for anything right now,” he said, explaining how he was looking forward to an interview that had been arranged for him with a local company. “the Revolution pays, but they don’t pay everything. I need an extra job in the morning so I can support my wife and son so we can do the things that we want to do.”
Thomas isn’t thinking about getting out of baseball again anytime soon. In fact, he’s hoping to find a job as a player/coach with an Atlantic League club in the near future.
“I do want to start coaching,” Thomas said. “I would love start coaching at this level as a player/coach. Hopefully, if that can happen next year, I would love to be a player/coach. I know the league, I know the umpires, I know the managers, I know the hitters, I know the pitchers, I know baseball. I’ve been playing it at this level for a very long time.
“What’s next for me is trying to get in touch with teams and let them know I’m interested in being a player/coach. I can handle the pitching staff, I can handle the young kids that are just coming into this league and I can handle older veterans. Then again, I can still pitch myself. I can have the best of both worlds – I can become a pitcher and I can become a pitching coach at the same time.”
But for right now, Carlie and Tristan are back in Dallas and Thomas hates being away from them, and misses being able to simply be around as a father.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old,” Thomas said. “It’s so hard – I talk to my wife about it every day. Now that I have a wife and son, it’s so hard to stay away from them. I want to still keep playing, but when do you tell yourself enough? When is when? My ultimate dream, and hopefully this happens one day, is that I’m still playing when my son is two or three years old and he can remember being on a baseball field with Dad.”