Every person reading this now has been told they weren’t good enough to be a professional ballplayer. While life goes on, a special few have decided to switch sports and then succeed in their second career ‒ Shaq Thompson is one of those special athletes. Despite failing completely in baseball, Thompson went back to school and made himself into an NFL prospect. Brandon Magee looks at his ignominious baseball career, while Dave Archibald over at Inside The Pylon looked at Shaq’s second act.
Shaq Thompson is a pure athlete. Coming out of Grant Union High School in Sacramento, he was considered one of football’s top overall prep players in 2011. On top of that, he also lettered in track & field and baseball. Although a raw baseball player, the Red Sox drafted Thompson in the 18th round of the 2012 first year player draft.
Thompson played two seasons of varsity baseball for Grant Union, batting .305/.379/.644 as a senior. His speed was evident in his numbers, as 13 of Thompson’s 18 hits went for extra bases, including five triples. He also was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases. Always looking for athletes, the Sox took a flyer on Thompson, and Thompson took a flyer on baseball.
The Red Sox signed Thompson quickly, and he was assigned to the rookie Gulf Coast League. Thompson made his professional debut on June 20th. Although Shaq went 0-for-3, he did have a pair of walks. Unfortunately, each of his three official at-bats ended with a strikeout. The Sox likely saw something in his swing that needed work, as Thompson would not appear again for another week.
Returning on June 27, Thompson again went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Two days later, he picked up his third walk along with an 0-for-4, four strikeout performance. July 3 and July 4 posted identical lines: 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. After five games, Thompson had not put a ball in play.
On July 6, Shaq arguably had his best professional game at the plate. Although he went 0-for-2, he picked up his fourth walk. And, instead of striking out twice, he struck out only once. His first professional ball in play was a groundout to first base, which also garnered Thompson his first RBI.
However, it was back to normal in his next game on July 9, 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He repeated the same line on the 11th as well. He went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts and a walk on the 13th, and followed that up on the 16th with a pair of walks and a strikeout. July 17 saw Thompson’s first five strikeout day. It would not be his last one however, as he also went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and a walk the very next day. His next appearance on July 20 would be his last of the season. Although he went 0-for-2, he left on a high note as he put another one of his outs in play ‒ a lineout to right field. He would leave after the game to go to the University of Washington and begin his college football career.
Shaq Thompson played in 13 games for the GCL Red Sox in 2012. He came up to the plate 47 times. In only two of those plate appearances did he actually put the ball in play. Officially, Thompson went 0-for-39 with eight walks and a mind-boggling 37 strikeouts. We may never see such futility again, and we certainly won’t see it from Shaq Thompson. Although his contract is still binding with the Red Sox (currently on the Restricted List), it is unlikely he will be returning to baseball. After a three-year career with the University of Washington, Thompson became a first round draft pick for the Carolina Panthers. Professional football is his career now.