He chose football in the beginning because having been raised in Texas, well, you get the idea. Chose to accept a scholarship to Oklahoma as a quarterback who in his final two years of high school threw for more than 7,000 yards while accounting for 83 touchdowns.
Amazing. Look at Cody Thomas now.
Baseball might have been his second sport growing up, but it’s what forged a professional career that has seen him tear things up in the minors.
Thomas is a 28-year-old outfielder for the Aviators doing his darnedest to impress enough for that all-too-desired call-up to the majors. He got a taste once. Wants a whole mouthful now.
Home sweet home
Colleyville is a city in northeastern Tarrant County, Texas, centrally located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. It was originally a small farming community in the 19th century.
Population: Just short of 26,000.
It has also produced all sorts of professional athletes, from MLB players (Bobby Witt Jr. of the Royals is one) to NFL stars such as All-Pro defensive end Maxx Crosby of the Raiders.
Thomas played football with Crosby’s older brother, Myles, in high school.
“It’s cool to be able to watch and follow Maxx’s career,” Thomas said. “Really happy for him. He’s a monster.
“I tell people all the time that if you want to find me in 40 years, I’ll be right back in Colleyville. I love everything about it.”
Such a homecoming can wait.
Thomas led the minor leagues in RBIs (78) and total bases (171) entering Monday’s games. He’s hitting .307 with 17 home runs. Hit for the cycle on opening day, the first player in franchise history to begin a season in such impressive fashion.
He’s having a massive season for the Oakland Athletics’ Triple-A team.
He feels more comfortable in the box than at any other point in his career. Feels this is the first time he’s had the same swing in consecutive years. Feels he can make adjustments at a quicker pace. He’s not searching for answers as much.
Things were derailed with an Achilles injury last season, the first time Thomas missed time at any level in any sport. Changed his perspective on things.
“I’ve been playing baseball every summer since I was 5 years old,” he said. “The (injury) was the toughest thing I’ve gone through in my career. Just grateful now to be healthy this year. When the game gets taken away from you … I’m just more thankful now.”
Said Aviators manager Fran Riordan: “We’re seeing Cody at full strength again — the explosiveness is there, the athleticism is there. He’s doing what he’s capable of again. He’s a dynamic player. He’s a really great athlete.”
Saw that in college.
Thomas played three years of football and two of baseball at Oklahoma. He backed up quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 1 selection in the 2018 NFL draft.
It was during the early days of the 2015 season when Thomas came to understand Mayfield’s gifts on the field.
“We wore those special colored jerseys during two-a-day practices, where the quarterbacks can’t get hit and the whistle blew early,” Thomas said. “And Baker always went crazy because he said he could avoid all the (defensive players). We’re like, ‘Dude, there are like three or four around you. They would take you to the ground.’
“Then the season started, and we got into games, and it was like he had butter on his jersey. He would get out of so many tackles. We’re saying, ‘How in the world did he do that?’ He was right the whole time. They couldn’t tackle him. He was impressive to watch.”
Thomas would eventually turn to baseball full time, selected by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. Once, while playing Class A ball for the Great Lakes Loons, he and teammate Carlos Rincon hit back-to-back homers twice in the same inning — which has been done only one other time in the history of professional baseball.
Thomas was traded to the A’s in February 2021 and spent the season with the Aviators, hitting .289 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs in 59 games. Then, in September 2022, having missed a majority of the season after Achilles surgery, he was promoted to the majors for the first time. In 10 games, he went 8-for-30.
Now, he wants a mouthful.
Sky is limit
The A’s are baseball’s worst team with a 23-63 record. You would think a player who is putting up the numbers of Thomas would warrant a stronger look at promotion. But every team has its reasons of whom to bring up and when. Even the A’s.
Thomas said his only concern is helping the Aviators win games, that the more you double down and try to do too much, things backfire. That if you focus on everyday tasks, the rest eventually plays out.
His manager is sure things will translate if Thomas is given the chance.
“It’s just a matter of him getting an opportunity,” Riordan said. “He’ll take it and run with it. He’s always the same guy. When he gets back to the big leagues, the sky is the limit.
“He’s a unique player with the background of playing Division I football in front of 100,000 people. He has that mental and physical toughness. Nothing fazes the kid. There is no moment too big or anything that’s going to overwhelm him. He’s special.”
The pride of Colleyville, Texas.
Along with, it seems, lots of others.
Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at email@example.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.