CHICAGO -- It's a sunny Tuesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, and Allen Thomas is out well before batting practice working individually with a player.This player has more of a special connection to Thomas than even Chris Sale or Jose Abreu, who have been part of his charges during 13
CHICAGO -- It's a sunny Tuesday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, and Allen Thomas is out well before batting practice working individually with a player.
This player has more of a special connection to Thomas than even Chris Sale or Jose Abreu, who have been part of his charges during 13 years as the White Sox director of conditioning. This player, running against a resistance band around his waist held by Thomas, is his 16-year-old son, Alek.
Alek, who falls in between older brother Josh and younger sister Alana, might end up playing in a more formal paid setting at U.S. Cellular someday. He's a three-sport athlete at Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago, getting ready to play varsity in football, basketball and baseball for his upcoming junior season.
And if Alek gets to that loftiest of levels, it will be the father-son bond that helps push him over the top. Allen is straightforward with his son, understanding what it takes to make it. He was a Minor League player himself from 1996-97. But he's far from overbearing.
"I don't lie to him at all," said Thomas, sitting next to his son in the White Sox dugout. "It's hard in this industry, so you need to understand you are going to fail. Just prepping him in that way, but it's a life lesson that will help him as well."
:: Father's Day 2016 ::
"He'll make me feel bad some days," said Alek with a smile. "Then other days, he'll make me feel good."
Alek's athletic prowess has brought collegiate interest. Baseball is his favorite sport, and if he gets drafted out of high school, there's not much of an issue in giving up the other two or giving up the collegiate experience even with the newfound challenges coming with the professional life.
"Say [Alex] comes out as a senior in high school. Now you are in Great Falls, Mont., and you have electric bills," said Allen, using the White Sox farm system as an example. "You are immediately an adult. We've been working with him on that, continue to teach him how to do those things and be self-sufficient. That's the part where it's a little different on the collegiate side."
"If I do play baseball," Alek said, "it's something I love."
Having a dad with Major League employment has allowed Alek to hang out with Angels pitcher and former White Sox hurler Hector Santiago, as well as getting to know Sale, to name a few. The downside is that Allen misses athletic banquets and games while on the road with the team.
Ultimately, the outfielder in baseball, potential quarterback in football and guard in basketball understands he's been blessed. And that blessing primarily is about having a good father who is a best friend more so than his immense athletic ability.
"I'm pretty lucky," Alek said. "I just realized that when I was out here doing some work with him. I just looked up and I was like, 'Wow. Not everybody gets to do this every day.' It's pretty special. I'm thankful that he is where he is right now."
"He's a special, unique athlete," Allen said. "I look at him on the field as an athlete and not as a son. I've always tried to separate."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.