Thomas Punches Pioneers
Third baseman Rob Thomas found himself at the plate in critical situations late in two straight games against the Calgary Pioneers, and delivered in both. If the Nine hold on to take the Heartland crown, you could do worse than look at these two at bats to say why.
With two on and one out in the bottom of the eight, and with his team tied, Thomas drilled a 1-1 fastball from Pioneer ace Cristobal Hernandez into the bleachers in left-center field. The Nine went on to win by that 5-2 score. A night later, with the team mired in a scoreless tie, and again with one out and two on after Lucas McNeill was walked to face Thomas, he drove the first pitch from Jimmie Greenwood into the gap between first and second to score Angel De Castillo from second with the winning run.
“It’s great fun to do that,” Thomas said. “Walk off hits are the thing you dream of when you’re a kid playing stick ball, so to get two of them in a row, and when the team needed them, is like a dream come true.” One is tempted to remind local fans that Thomas comes from Mongolia (his father is a business man who set up an automated distribution center in the area, and his mother is now a renowned travel writer), so stick ball for him may well have been exactly that.
What’s also a dream come true is Thomas’s performance the past two months of the season. After struggling heavily in the middle of the summer, the 23-year-old found his flow in August, hitting seven homers and crushing opponents for a .302/.326/.616 slash. September has been nearly as good, so while his overall numbers won’t look brilliant, his teammates know exactly what the score is.
“Rob is one of those guys who just quietly goes about hitting 25 or 30 homers,” said super-star Lucas McNeill. “And that’s in the strongside platoon role, you know? You get a guy with his mindset and who can mash like he can, and it makes a lot of the pressure on guys like me go away.”
The homer was his 70th career blast, which gave it a special little boost. “My grandmother turned 70 today,” he said. “She believes in all that numbers and synchronicity stuff, so I gave her a call and said thanks for the boost. I mean, who knows, right? If you're on a streak, you don't mess with the mojo.”
GM: Ron Collins