When he looked at the roster for the Chillicothe Paints, it would have been easy for Chris Thomas (Canton/Perry) to feel intimidated. After all, Thomas shared a roster filled with teammates attending schools in the Big Ten, Ivy League and Mid-American Conference.
After he finished the season with a perfect 7-0 record, the right-handed Thomas showed that he certainly belonged in the Prospect League.
During his sophomore year at Heidelberg, Thomas asked head coach Matt Palm and pitching coach Chad Fitzgerald to help him find a baseball team to play for during the summer. Fitzgerald put Thomas in touch with the Prospect League.
“It was a perfect fit,” said Thomas, now a Heidelberg Junior. “I was excited to get down to Chillicothe and do my part for the team.”
Thomas said Fitzgerald and Paints pitching coach Eric Best had similar coaching approaches, which made for an easy transition on the mound.
“I listened -- a lot,” stressed Thomas. “Coach Best made his expectations very clear. We wanted to attack hitters and pitch smart. I was fortunate enough to execute the plan well.”
The transition in the clubhouse, however, took a little more time.
“When I first got there, I felt like some of the guys from bigger programs wondered why I was on the roster,” said Thomas. “I don’t really blame them, but it made me work harder. Once they saw me pitch, [the size of my school] wasn’t an issue.”
Thomas was one of seven Paints players from NCAA Division III programs.
After an up-and-down spring with Heidelberg, Thomas felt like he was finding the groove as the end of the season approached.
“I battled injury during the winter and it took some time to shake off the rust,” said Thomas. “By the time May rolled around, I was finally feeling fully healthy. The timing, for Chillicothe, couldn’t have been better.”
Thomas’s seven wins were the second most in the Prospect League. He threw a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game.
“It was great to see Chris enjoy so much success in the summer,” said Palm. “He is a gifted athlete and a tremendous asset for a pitching staff.”