Thompson, Great Britain teammates playing with 'sense of pride'

Outfielder has the most Major League experience on the roster

March 9th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- On Tuesday night at the Great Britain team hotel in the Phoenix area, manager Drew Spencer gathered all 52 members of the delegation -- from players to support staff -- in a conference room and posed a series of questions for each person.

Who are you? Where are you from? What does it mean to put Great Britain across your chest? And who are you playing for?

“And that’s where you really see the strength of that diverse roster,” Spencer said. “It was standing-room only, a bit hot and muggy by the time everyone is done. But it’s powerful and beautiful to see, because the energy changes when we come out of that.”

The conversation resonated with players ahead of their exhibition games this week, including Thursday’s 8-1 loss to the Royals at Surprise Stadium, and Spencer hopes it will bond the team together when pool play begins for Great Britain in its first ever World Baseball Classic. The club will open action at 7 p.m. MT on Saturday against Adam Wainwright and Team USA at Chase Field.

“To be around the guys and see how proud they are to wear this uniform, and for myself to join them, it’s really exciting,” Dodgers outfielder said. “I think we’re all looking forward to Saturday.”

Of the 30 players on Great Britain’s roster, five were born in the U.K., seven in the Bahamas, 17 in the United States and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s a diverse roster and a mix of baseball experiences, from the Majors to the Minors to independent ball.

Thompson has the most Major League experience of anyone on the roster with 297 career games, ahead of right-hander Vance Worley’s 163 games. Seven players have appeared in a Major League game.

And everyone has a different story for why they decided to suit up for Great Britain. Mariners prospect is playing for his mom and dad, both born in Great Britain. Thompson is representing his dad, Mychal, who was born in the Bahamas. Once Thompson solidified his standing for Opening Day and got the green light from the Dodgers to participate, he was all in.

“First, hearing Drew’s passion for this team and baseball in the U.K. was something that really hits you, how much this means to him and how much he gives to all this,” Thompson said. “It gives you a sense of pride representing him. And then for me personally, to represent the Bahamas, where my dad is from, and to team up with a lot of Bahamians, is super cool.”

Several Bahamian players view the tournament as an opportunity to represent the Bahamas and Great Britain.

“It means everything to me,” outfielder said. “You’re not playing for yourself. You’re playing for a whole city, a whole country, your entire family. Baseball brings different parts of the world, different cultures together. There’s no better stage than this.”

During Spencer’s team meeting, infielder Nick Ward told the story of his grandpa, Nick Farley, hearing about Ward making Great Britain’s roster.

“Right before the qualifier, he went through a pretty big health scare, and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen,” Ward said. “He was in the back of my mind, for sure, and it meant a lot to represent the country he came from. It was really special for me to honor him, especially when he was going through that. He’s doing well now, so getting to tell him that I had officially made this team was something I’ll never forget.

“His face just lit up. It was really special. It’s a privilege to wear any uniform for any team, but when you get to represent a country, especially when it’s representing family too, it means a little bit more.”

Great Britain shocked the baseball world by qualifying for the Classic in September, when they walked off Spain. It was a massive moment for British baseball, which has seen growth in recent years. Now, it’s prime time, and excitement is buzzing around the U.K. in anticipation of playing on the world stage.

“We sat on the precipice of this next level for years,” Spencer said. “Going into Regensburg and the qualifier, it felt like that was a must-win situation for us. Now at this level, there are so many things we can take with us. I’ve probably written down three or four things today that will fundamentally change how we approach things when we’re back in the U.K.”