Bat bags and a very large suitcase.
In many ways they were defining souvenirs Trace Thompsontransitory career path.
In his 13 years of professional baseball, the journeyman outfielder visited nine clubs; played for 19 major and minor league teams; were sold, bought or claimed six times.
At the end of each revolving period, two things usually happen:
He packs his suitcase to move to a new city, to a new club, to a new organization.
And he puts away an old bat bag in his family’s vault, adding to a collection that now resembles a kaleidoscope of discarded baseball memorabilia.
“It’s a little scary,” he said, “seeing all these different colors.”
Indeed, the spectrum ranges from the black Chicago White Sox to the green Oakland Athletic, from the red Arizona Diamondback to the brown San Diego Padres.
Remembering all the recent changes, Thompson couldn’t help but sigh.
“When you approach them, you always think that you will be with the same team,” he admitted. “It was mental work.”
But on the other hand, he noted with pride, in his collection there were always more Dodger blue than anything else.
This is the club where he experienced the peak of his career six years ago.
And a team that over the past month has given him the long-awaited opportunity to return to the Majors.
“I knew I could make it to the big leagues, do my part, rebuild myself and be an impact player,” Thompson, who has been out of a trade for over a month that brought him back to Los Angeles, where he appears midseason, said recently. amazing .301 batting average, four home runs and 17 RBIs in 30 games.
“But doing it here, with a lot of guys that I know, with a lot of people that I’ve spent a lot of time with, I think the overall theme is just special,” he continued. “This is something I never thought could happen.”
There was a time when Thompson thought he’d be with Dodgers for a long period.
A Southland native who attended Santa Margarita High School in Orange County, Thompson was drafted by the White Sox in the second round in 2009 before being traded to the Dodgers after a successful MLB debut in 2015.
He immediately felt at home.
And during the first half of the subsequent campaign, he thrived as a 25-year-old rookie, posting a .796 slugging-plus-on-base percentage and 13 home runs in his first 73 games while batting to third in the lineup at times.
“He drove for us for a month or two,” says the manager. Dave Roberts remembered.
At the time, Thompson said he “felt like I was going to be here for a while.”
Instead, his career quickly went downhill.
In July of that year, he aggravated his back injury. An x-ray a few weeks later showed two vertebral fractures, an injury that ended his season.
His time with the Dodgers was also on the clock.
After jumping between the A’s and the big leagues in 2017, hitting just .122 in 27 games, Thompson was named to the team at the end of spring training the following year. Athletics two days later.
“I didn’t play very well,” Thompson said of his first Dodgers appearance. “That’s what it all comes down to.”
His next couple of years weren’t much better: a self-proclaimed “disaster” in 2018, when he hit just .117 in 51 games for the A’s and the White Sox; mediocre 2019 season with Cleveland affiliate AAA; and a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign held entirely at the Diamondbacks alternative training ground.
“I just lived on one big suitcase,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “Learned how to pack efficiently.”
Despite the setbacks, he had no intention of retiring.
“I always knew what I was capable of,” he said, “so I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel.”
But he also knew that his career was on the line.
“I had to dig deep,” he said. “I didn’t want to end my career thinking I didn’t leave it all there.”
Trace was not the only member of the Thompson family to face adversity at the time.
While he toiled through junior high, trying to rediscover his game, his older brother Clay ThompsonA quarterback for the Golden State Warriors was tied to the bench with a string of serious injuries, missing the entire 2019-20 season with an ACL tear and the entire 2020-21 season with an Achilles tendon rupture. tendon.
Trace said that Clay came to him for advice on how he dealt with the disappointment of his back injury and how he dealt with the psychological challenges of long-term rehab.
However, their negotiations had an impact on Trace as well.
“Seeing his mental strength to go through it all and see the light at the end of the tunnel is like what I had to go through,” Trace said. “Not necessarily because of the injury, but just because of the performance and everything that has happened in my career.
“I definitely looked to him as an inspiration. He came back from two serious injuries where many people didn’t pay attention to him and didn’t know if he would be who he is or something else. So I had no excuse but to do my best to come back [to the majors] and restore yourself.”
For Trace, this meant “deep diving” into his deteriorating performance, trying to determine where he had gone astray.
He spent long hours in front of the computer, watching and playing videos of his punches and other sports he admired. He also “talked to himself” a lot, trying to replenish his psyche with “confidence and conviction”.
Again, Clay provided some family motivation.
“My brother is a good example of that, a guy who never ducks a single moment, never ducks a certain shot,” Trace said. “He’s the guy I’m learning from.”
When Clay returned to the court last fall, continuing win a fourth NBA title With the Warriors, Trace eventually returned to the majors for the first time in three years, earning a September call-up from the Chicago Cubs last season after hitting 21 home runs in the AAA season.
“Mentally, I had to re-evaluate myself … and sort of find myself again,” Thompson said. “I feel like these last couple of years, starting back in ’19, have been a journey towards that.”
Two days before he was to celebrate Clay’s triumphant comeback at the Warriors’ championship parade last month, Mychal Thompson sat in a Bay Area hotel room and witnessed his other son’s last turning point unfold in real time.
Signing with the Padres this spring and being released after just six MLB games, Trace returned to his junior year, scoring in his latest attempt to resurrect his career with the Detroit Tigers affiliate.
On the afternoon of Father’s Day on June 19, in a game that Michal was watching live on his computer from his hotel room, Trace hit a sixth-inning single that raised his season average to .299.
Michal was delighted. Then he was confused.
In the seventh inning, Trace was unexpectedly out of the game.
Oh no, Michal thought about it. Tracey hurt?
However, shortly after that, Mikhail’s phone rang. Trace was on the other end of the line.
“Hey dad,” Trace said. “I just got traded.”
“Dodgers,” his son blurted out excitedly.
Michal understood the meaning immediately, knowing all too well his son’s feelings for the organization—the blue souvenirs he’d kept in their vault all these years.
“Every hair on my body stood on end,” the former Lakes center recently recalled. “Looks like he came home. He dreamed of putting on the Dodger uniform again.”
Michal added: “It was the answer to my prayers.”
Meanwhile, Tracy helped solve some of the Dodgers’ offseason problems.
When they suffered several injuries in the outfield, baseball operations president Andrew Friedman said the team immediately targeted the right slugger.
“He made a big impression when he was here,” Friedman said. “He was someone we watched closely and always rooted for him.”
And in what has since become his longest tenure in the majors since 2018, Trace showed his trademark strength — it’s a small sample size, but his .542 slugging percentage is the best on the team — and combined a strong outfield defense with newfound stability in the game. plate.
“Trace’s convenience, knowing his surroundings, I think gave him the best chance to perform right from the start,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy you can’t bet against.”
Trace’s role remains unclear until the end of the season.
Chris Taylor is recovering from a broken foot. The Dodgers reportedly in the shop for another bat leading to Tuesday’s trade deadline.
However, there have been no new vault trips for Trace recently; there is no sign that he will soon have to pack his suitcase again.
For now, simply returning to the majors — and especially the Dodgers — has been a successful first step.
“A lot of…