RICHMOND, Va. – After spending five years in the minor leagues and independent ball, former VCU baseball player Ian Thomas was invited to Atlanta Braves' spring training this year.
A season ago Thomas pitched for Atlanta's AA affiliate the Mississippi Braves. The southpaw pitcher went 7-8, with a 2.78 ERA, racking up 123 strikeouts in 104.1 innings pitched.
VCUAthletics.com recently sat down with Thomas to ask him about his call up to big league spring training.
What's it like to take the path you've taken so far in your career?
IT: It's a different path but it really doesn't matter as long as you get to the promise land of where the goal is. At the end of the road, the goal is getting to the big leagues so a lot of guys start different places and go up the ladder. For me, I started in the Independent Baseball League and from there I just put numbers up because there really wasn't a ladder for me to climb. I wanted to do the best I could in that league in order to get looks from Major League organizations. It took me a couple of years but I kept working hard and grinded it out trying to get a look from a team playing up there. What made me even hungrier is that I didn't have much time with my age and the guys with guaranteed money on my team I didn't have a long string like the other guys did. I was just a train ticket down and sometimes that's all you really need to produce and stay consistent.
Did the major leagues ever feel too distant?
IT: I thought to myself this really seems like a long shot from independent league where not many guys get signed, to play in the league. I was still working but I had a lot of doubt, I just told myself I'm not just gonna take the cleats off and hang them up I'm gonna make them take my jersey before I give it to them. I'm not a quitter by any means; you have to fire me before I quit.
What has the journey been like?
IT: I feel like every season is pretty successful in my book. I've been on a play-off contending team every year since college except one year (2010). I just stick to my work ethic and play the game day-by-day I didn't look outside of that I just tried to stay within myself and I didn't let it overwhelm me. Numbers don't lie, they never do in sports, and you see numbers that'll equate to being a good professional player.
When you got the invite what went through your head?
IT: I was excited, I was elated and I've been waiting on a call for a long time, to be on the field and in the same place as all these guys. To get that call it brought a huge weight off my shoulders, but I'm still not there yet. It's just an invite, until I'm on that 25-man roster I'm still going to be hacking at it, going at it and working hard. I feel like I'm just turning the doorknob to get in that clubhouse.
What are you hoping to work on at your first big league camp?
I'll do what ever they want me to do to end up in Atlanta. Getting that invite was a huge eye opener to me knowing I can do this, I can play and I have a legitimate chance to become a Major League baseball player which has been my life long dream and a goal of mine for my whole life. I'm just going to stay within myself. I'm not perfect but I'm going to really try and draw attention with my ability and open some eyes at the next level. That's the goal is to force the hand to get where I want to be and where I should be.
Do you feel like you're in the Prime of your career?
The prime of my career will be when I sign a contract to a major league team to Atlanta or whoever gives me that opportunity. But right now, being 26 years old, I haven't seen myself even out. I feel like I haven't peaked yet and that I'm a late bloomer.
Now that you've spent a couple days in camp what has it been like?
So many guys never get the opportunity to be in the same locker room or share the field with these guys that are so good. It just makes me even hungrier and want it that much more so I can put on the jersey and be with these guys day in and day out.