The eighth-round pick was impressed by Eastwood Field.
By STEVE RUMAN
To suggest the baseball gods have been kind to Mark Thompson in recent days would be an understatement.
In a span of nine days beginning May 31, Thompson helped lead Lewis-Clark State College to the NAIA World Series title, was named the tournament’s Golden Glove recipient, and was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round of the June draft.
Thompson was assigned to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers shortly after signing a contract with the Indians. On Monday, he made his first visit to his new summer home during the Scrappers’ media day festivities at Eastwood Field.
Following a three-game series at Jamestown, Thompson and the rest of his teammates will return to Niles tonight as the Scrappers open the home portion of their schedule against Batavia.
“It’s been a nice couple of weeks, but hopefully this is just the start of a long ride,” Thompson said. “It’s always been a goal to reach the professional level, but I’m not content. I don’t want it to stop here.”
Thompson (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) enjoyed a banner season this spring as he made the transition from center field to shortstop. He hit .382 with 19 doubles, six triples and four home runs. He also was 38-of-41 in stolen bases. The Santa Clara, Calif. native was a second-team NAIA All-America pick.
Prior to LCSC, Thompson played two seasons at Edmonds Community College.
The right-handed hitter said he expects to be used either as either a shortstop or second baseman this summer.
Prior to Monday, Thompson said the furthest east he had ever traveled was Wichita, Kansas. He insists his string of good fortune continued upon his arrival at Eastwood Field.
“You always here stories about how minor league stadiums can be such dives, but everything about this place is gorgeous,” Thompson said. “Plus, the guys who played here last summer have been bragging about the great fan support in the Mahoning Valley.
“I’ve always heard that the Indians organization is a successful, first-class operation from top to bottom.”
Thompson certainly comes from a program steeped in success. The recent World Series title won by LCSC was the program’s 15th national championship. Thompson was one of eight LCSC players selected in the recent draft. Teammate Beau Mills was the Indians’ top overall pick, and is currently on the Scrappers’ roster.
“It’s pretty cool that we ended up here together. It was a thrill to be surrounded by so much talent in college. I think the success we enjoyed at that level will help us out in the future,” Thompson said.
When asked about the expected differences between the collegiate and professional levels, Thompson noted that life in the minors is synonymous with long bus rides. He also noted that in college, he enjoyed a good number of days off. The Scrappers, meanwhile, are scheduled to play 76 games in a span of 81 days.
“The daily grind, from what I’m told, can be very tough both mentally and physically,” Thompson said. “You have to remain focused.”
“Then again, I love this game. Playing ball every single night isn’t something to complain about.”
Thompson, who is 22-years-old, was a kinesiology major at LCSC.