Shaq Thompson has made a name for himself in the NFL as a hard-hitting outside linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, but he wasn’t hitting much during his short stint as a minor-league baseball player.
He was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, and track) and decided to give baseball a shot after being drafted by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He played for Boston’s rookie-ball team in the Gulf Coast League that summer and infamously had one of the worst batting lines of all time.
Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom was with the Tampa Bay Rays at the time and distinctly remembers seeing Thompson in the GCL.
Bloom joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” and talked about Thompson’s short minor-league career and why two-sport athletes are so impressive.
“I remember very distinctly when I was with the Rays seeing Shaq Thompson in rookie ball,” Bloom said (25:50 in player above). “Obviously, had a rough go of it. I happened to see one of the balls he put in play. I was there for that one day in the GCL.”
Thompson did not get a hit in 39 at-bats and only put the ball in play twice – that’s right, he struck out 37 of 39 times. He did manage to pick up an RBI, though.
He then fully focused on football and that turned out to be a great decision. Ultimately, talented two-sport athletes should be making the decision that’s right for them.
“Sometimes guys that have options in multiple sports, we’re always trying to get them to baseball,” Bloom said. “But sometimes I think for that player it really should be about them finding the sport where they’re going to be the best.”
Thompson was a first-round pick (25th overall) in 2015 by the Panthers after an impressive career at Washington.
“This guy goes to the NFL and he’s a legit NFL player. I’m sure vice versa there are guys that wouldn't be able to succeed in the NFL that found baseball to be the right sport for them,” Bloom said. “So it’s really about finding the right sport for you.
“If you’re that kind of athlete that you actually have options in both sports – first of all, to do that you have to be a really good athlete. That’s why I think we have some of the reverence that we do for the Brian Jordans and the Deion Sanders and especially Bo Jackson to be able to play two sports at the highest level at both. It’s unbelievable the athleticism it takes.”
Thompson is one of many athletes that have chosen between multiple sports in their career – whether that be in high school, college, or the professional ranks. While he didn’t find success in baseball, at least he gave it the old college try.