Thomas puts 'icing on cake' for A's with first MLB HR

Outfielder's decisive blast vs. Boston among trio of two-run jacks for Oakland in rubber game

July 20th, 2023

OAKLAND -- As a kid growing up in Colleyville, Texas, dreamed of one day becoming a two-sport star in the professional ranks, joining the small list that features elite athletes such as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.

The idea was far-fetched, but the plan came close to fruition.

After starring as a baseball and a football player in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through high school, Thomas was recruited to the University of Oklahoma, where he continued to play both sports in college until future NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield beat him out in 2015 for the starting job his sophomore season.

In the eight years since, Thomas’ sole focus has been on baseball, still carrying the “QB2” nickname that was playfully given to him by teammates. He may not get to experience the thrill of tossing a touchdown in the NFL, but he now knows the feeling of rounding the bases on a baseball field at the highest level after sending a ball over the fence.

Thomas launched a go-ahead two-run homer off Boston starter Brayan Bello in the second inning for his first Major League home run that powered Oakland to a 6-5 victory in the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum.

“It all happened so quick,” said Thomas, whose homer came on a 1-2 changeup and sailed just over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field. “As soon as I got a barrel on it and it went up in the air, I thought it had a chance. I saw it leave the yard, and it was pretty exciting stuff.”

A first home run is a special occasion for any player. However, the significance of Thomas’ milestone carries a bit more gravity for his teammates and coaches given the path he took.

Drafted by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Thomas had to grind through 586 Minor League games and switch organizations before finally getting his first call to the Majors last September with the A’s.

“He’s put a lot of hard work in to get to where he’s at,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “It’s just great to see a young man get an opportunity up here and capitalize on it. The home run was kind of icing on the cake for him, but a big hit for us in that game.

“Great to see him come through.”

Though his 2022 MLB stint was a brief 10 games, Thomas came away from it with some lessons learned.

“Every pitch matters [in the big leagues],” Thomas said. “I quickly learned that last year coming up here. How quickly [pitchers] make adjustments and can find your holes, and attack you with it. It was a quick stint last year, but I feel like I learned a lot.”

Thomas carried those takeaways into the offseason and adjusted accordingly with the hope of getting another big league shot in 2023. He hit a detour along the way -- the A’s designated him for assignment in December 2022 before bringing him to Spring Training as a non-roster invite -- but Thomas earned another chance after dominating through his first 74 games with Triple-A Las Vegas this season by hitting .308 with a .943 OPS, 17 homers and 79 RBIs.

“The big thing for me is, I feel like this is the first year I’ve had the same swing two years in a row,” Thomas said. “Coming up in the Minor Leagues, it seemed like every year I was doing so many adjustments to my swing year after year.

“This is the first time that I’ve kind of had the same foundation of a swing. I’m learning myself a little bit more and I feel comfortable in it.”

After having his contract selected by Oakland on July 7, Thomas has an opportunity at some increased playing time in the outfield with Esteury Ruiz and Ramón Laureano on the injured list.

More performances like Wednesday’s two-hit effort will go a long way in helping Thomas' chances of staying in the big leagues once those players are ready to return.

“I knew if I had another chance to come up here this year, I would take that learning experience and try to use it to my advantage,” Thomas said. “If I’m not playing every day, that’s all right. I just have to stay focused on what I want to accomplish.

“When I do get the opportunities, make the most of it and try to help the team win.”