Players are expected to struggle in their pro debuts. But few ever have endured the stretch that Shaq Thompson, an outfielder whom the Red Sox took in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, experienced in his first taste of professional baseball. The 18-year-old wrapped up his first professional baseball season on Friday. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout for the Rookie Level GCL Red Sox, the last entry into what appears on the surface to be a nightmarish season.
Thompson, a high school football star and one of the top safety recruits in the country, will now head to the University of Washington to start his football season. He leaves behind his summer in Fort Myers having gone 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts and eight walks. His lineout to right against Twins sandwich-round pick Luke Bard -- in which he was robbed by a shoestring catch in his final at-bat on Friday -- represented just the second ball that he put in play this summer, and the first that he'd sent to the outfield. It was the only time all summer that he came close to collecting a hit.
Deadspin has chronicled the young man for about a week, much of it in the "can you believe what an awful season this is?" kind of way. Now that he is through, though, some humanity seems to be peaking through in the latest post from the site:
The Red Sox took a flier on Thompson, curious if his raw athleticism might translate into baseball skills. It's a longshot, but one every MLB team bets multiple times each draft. Thompson played just a single year of high school baseball—if he had the potential to be a superstar, no one would have known. So they took him in the 18th round, gave him a $45,000 signing bonus, and hoped for the best. But they did something unorthodox: they put him right out there to see what he could do.
Indeed, because he had to leave to go play college football while others could stay behind to work on their games, the Red Sox put Green-Thompson into the line of fire. Neither the team nor the player feared failure, which is at least refreshing even if they both probably found more failure than they could have even anticipated.
Of note locally: You saw from the WEEI piece that Green-Thompson's last at-bat, a lineout to right, came against the GCL Twins. Well, the only other time he put the ball in play? It was a different game against the Twins, proving that the organizational mantra of pitching to contact is alive and well even at the lowest level and even against a player who otherwise made contact against nobody.