Eric Thames has hit all season and he’s proven correct those who have raved about his bat since he transferred to Pepperdine last year. Drafted in the 39th round last season by the Yankees, Thames came back to school this year and hit .408/.514/.787 with 13 homers before a quad injury ended his season. He speaks to Project Prospect about his injury, playing in a pitcher-friendly park, and the upcoming draft.
Pat Andriola: Is there truth to news that you have an injury around your hip/thigh (or hip flexor)? If so, how long do you think you will be out for?
Eric Thames: That is true. I had a tear in my quad and went into surgery on May 24th. The recovery time is about 4-6 weeks. Dr. Arthur Ting tells me that this injury is very common among sprinters and that my leg will be back to 100% in no time.
PA: Why do you think Pepperdine is such a tough place to hit, and are the problems the same for lefties and righties?
ET: Pepperdine is a very tough place to hit. It is disheartening stepping into the box and having a strong gust of wind blowing right into your face! Plus picking up the pitcher is difficult due to the houses and cars in the background; a batter's eye would be perfect. Righties have a slight advantage over lefties because there is a small jet stream that blows out to the huge net in left field. Every once in awhile the ball will carry, but not often.
PA: You were drafted in the 39th round last year, and now you are projected to go in the top two rounds. How dramatic has this change been for you this season, and what has been different this year to account to the drastic change?
ET: In addition to last year being a transition year for me between JC & D-I, I made it clear to the scouts that I wanted to do another year of college. I had offers to go higher, but I did not want to sign. Junior college pitchers go about pitching very differently than D-I pitchers. D-I guys are crafty, have great stuff, and know how to pitch. I wanted another year of the challenge of D-I pitchers. This year I went into the season with a better idea of what to expect and with a chip on my shoulder. I knew I wouldn't be on the radar so it became a goal to make a name for myself.
PA: Pepperdine is the third college you've played for. Could finally being comfortable at Pepperdine have contributed to your outstanding season?
ET: I attended two junior colleges before Pepperdine, the first one I left because there was a coaching staff change that I did not agree with. I then transferred to Pepperdine which was one of the best decisions of my life. Becoming comfortable has contributed to my season but I feel myself maturing as a ballplayer has had the biggest influence.
PA: Was there any temptation last year to sign with the Yankees after they drafted you?
ET: Yes. The Yankees made a very good offer last year. But I felt they did not get to see me at my best, they never saw me play defense, and they never saw me hit with authority. This year was a year where I really needed to prove myself.
PA: How good is the baseball talent in the WCC?
ET: There is very good talent in the WCC. I think it is often overshadowed with the more popular leagues like the SEC, ACC, Pac-10 etc. It’s definitely is not a walk in the park.
PA: What other players on Pepperdine can you see making an impact in the major leagues?
ET: I see Brett Hunter making a big impact at the next level, his fastball is just plain ol' ridiculous. Chase D'Arnaud is another player as well, he is a great five-tool player.
PA: Are you excited/nervous for the draft?
ET: I'm very excited about the draft. I've been waiting my whole life for this moment.
Pat Andriola can be reached at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu.