Growing up around the Chicago White Sox where his dad, Allen, is the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Alek Thomas has known for years what he wants to be: a pro baseball player.
The recent Mt. Carmel graduate remembers when he first set his sights on the MLB, and recently he took another step toward his dream when he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 4 as the 63rd pick in the MLB Draft.
“I love that feeling with baseball that you get to go out there every day and play,” Thomas said. “In eighth grade, I went to spring training in Arizona with my dad, and I realized it. You get to play the game, and then you start up again the next day.”
Projected in many mock drafts to go late in the first round or early in the second, Thomas followed the proceedings and waited to hear his name.
The speedy outfielder waited longer than he expected, going late in the second round to the D-Backs.
For Thomas, there was disappointment, but only momentarily. Watching the draft on TV with friends and family, he took it all in stride.
“It was a cool experience. I saw a lot of people I’ve played with get drafted,” Thomas said. “I got passed up, but it all depends on how you look at it. Not many people get drafted that high. That’s something special, and I’ll have a good opportunity with a good organization.”
With the option to sign with the Diamondbacks or attend Texas Christian University on a baseball and football scholarship, Thomas signed with the D-Backs on June 10.
“Once I went and signed, put the jersey on, that made it real,” Thomas said. “It’s the next step. I want to progress and keep working toward my ultimate goal, not just making the majors but making it and sticking.”
A four-year varsity standout player for the Caravan, Thomas earned the Chicago Catholic League’s Lawless Award, an honor given to the outstanding senior baseball player in the league.
Helping lead Mt. Carmel to a 27-12 record, Thomas hit .423 in his senior season, finishing with 10 home runs, 43 RBI, 58 runs and 21 extra-base hits. He batted leadoff for the team and was a defensive star in center field.
Thomas was born in Arizona but moved with his family to North Carolina where his dad was raised.
The Thomas Family moved to Chicago when Alek was in middle school.
“I’ve always been a player trying to prove myself,” Thomas said. “Even at Mt. Carmel, I wanted to show [Coach Brian Hurry] that I was good enough, that I could do this, especially as a freshman. I wanted to play at a high level every day.”
Hurry said that, even as a freshman, Thomas embraced the moment and was not overwhelmed.
“Alek has always had a confidence, a calmness, about himself,” Hurry said. “That’s unique to him. He has always been a mature kid, both mentally and physically. As a player now, Alek is much more disciplined at the plate and much more polished. He’s always looking for a good pitch to hit.”
Growing up around an MLB clubhouse, Thomas credits a variety of White Sox players with giving him advice over the years, from Juan Pierre to Nick Swisher to Todd Frazier to Hall of Famer Jim Thome.
Now with a chance to make a name for himself professionally, Thomas can’t wait to start playing.
“I’m an all-around player. I like batting leadoff, or I can always hit second,” Thomas said. “I’m a player who can get on base and steal some bags. I think of myself as a five-tool player. Some people have said my arm is a little below average, but if you give me a shot, I’ll make the play.”
Over his high school career, Thomas hit .405 (200 for 493) with 39 home runs, 158 RBI, 196 runs and 84 extra-base hits.