UW linebacker Shaq Thompson keeps giving baseball a try
For spring break, Shaq Thompson toiled 10 days on a baseball field with the Boston Red Sox's minor-league camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A week ago, Shaq Thompson bathed in the Florida sunshine like many 18-year-old college students on spring break.
However, his vacation was different from anyone else on the Washington football team.
Rather than lounge on the beach or party by the pool, Thompson toiled 10 days on a baseball field at the Boston Red Sox's minor-league camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
It was a return to the sport he fell in love with years ago.
"I just have a love for it," said Thompson, a standout linebacker with a bright future in football. "I played baseball when I was younger. I should have continued it. I just stopped and got back into it.
"I just want to get the feeling and get really taught to play baseball."
Thompson gave up the sport in the sixth grade, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder was a good enough athlete to be taken in the 18th round of the baseball draft last June.
He received a $45,000 signing bonus from the Red Sox on a four-year, $100,000 contract.
During a six-week stint with the Boston organization last summer, his struggles drew national attention. He appeared in 13 games, striking out 37 times in 39 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League. He drew eight walks, scored three runs and drove in one.
This spring Thompson concentrated primarily on the fundamentals. His natural position is in the outfield, but the Red Sox had him working at several positions.
He also spent a lot of time in the batter's box.
"It took me a couple of days (to get comfortable)," Thompson said. "I started off better than I did last year. I feel like I improved more, even though I really didn't do (anything)."
Thompson plans to return to the Red Sox organization and the GCL in June. Beyond that, he's unsure of his future in baseball.
His situation is similar to former UW quarterback Jake Locker, who was taken by the Los Angeles Angels in the 10th round of the 2009 draft and given a $250,000 signing bonus. Locker never played with the Angels.
History says it's difficult for two-sport athletes to excel in football and baseball.
"What happens to a lot of those guys a lot of times is they need at-bats," said Jim Callis, editor of Baseball America, which tracks the best baseball players in high school, college and in the minors. "They don't get the at-bats. He'll get 150 at-bats, whereas if he had signed out of high school he'd be getting 500 at-bats a year."
Last season, the former USA Today and Parade Magazine football All-American excelled more than he failed on the gridiron.
He started every game and earned honorable-mention All-Pac-12 after finishing with 74 tackles, 8 ½ tackles for loss, three interceptions and two sacks.
The Huskies expect Thompson to make a bigger impact next season.
"He's doing great," UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "He's getting better and better. He's a real bright guy. Football makes sense to him. He picks it up really well. He's got things to work on just like everybody, but I'm pleased with his progress."
Wilcox described Thompson as a "humble, hardworking guy" who has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to juggle both sports.
"He's doing a lot of things kids his age aren't doing," Wilcox said. "There's a lot of commitment playing football and being a student, then having a baseball career too. That's a lot for anybody, let alone a freshman in college."
Sooner or later Thompson will have to pick football or baseball — but just not today.
"That's down the road," he said.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen