Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Middleton standout doesn't mind a few stares

Middleton’s Corey Thomas, sliding to beat the tag, is often watched by major-league scouts during his pitching starts.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Special to the Times

Middleton’s Corey Thomas, sliding to beat the tag, is often watched by major-league scouts during his pitching starts.

TAMPA — Corey Thomas has always drawn a crowd, even dating to his youth league days on the Yellow Jacket League fields of West Tampa.

Back then, he played with the likes of Michael Burgess and Nevin Griffith, both of whom were selected in the early rounds of last year's major-league draft and followed their dreams into professional baseball.

In June, Thomas, a senior at Middleton who has signed to play at USF, could join them. Thomas, a pitcher/shortstop, is expected to be chosen in the first five rounds of this year's draft.

For now, everyone's still watching. Major-league scouts — sometimes up to 20 — crowd the stands at Middleton games with radar guns in hand to see his 93-mph fastball and biting slider.

Thomas is used to being the center of attention: "You see them to a certain degree," he said. "But when I toe the rubber, I'm there to do a job and that's get outs. I don't focus on it."

Legendary high school coach Billy Reed, who coached the likes of Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield at Hillsborough, attends most Middleton home games.

"He has the arm, he has the quickness, he has the dedication," Reed said of Thomas. "He'll be a good one. … I don't think he's reached his peak."

Middleton coach Vernon Slater agrees. There have been times when the Tigers have booted wins away at Thomas' expense. And there are times when Thomas sees the scouts "and tries to throw it through the backstop. That's when his physical takes over his mental. When his mental is right, he's a beast."

Talent aside, Thomas learned hard work from his father, Corey Thomas Sr., who coached his son throughout youth ball.

"Now it's time to turn it up," Thomas Sr. said. "Saladino is coming up. I think you're going to see him take it to another level."

And then, maybe the next step, to professional baseball.

"I think I'm ready, and the reason I say that is because I'm willing to work hard," Thomas said. "I have a serious passion for this game."

Middleton standout doesn't mind a few stares 04/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane


    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.
  2. Lightning opens day two of draft by taking Russian forwards


    After taking a big, right-shot defenseman in the first round, the Lightning's second day of the NHL Draft was headlined by a couple skilled Russian forwards.

  3. Kids still playing for all the marbles — literally

    Human Interest

    In this world of pompous athletes, overbearing coaches, money-grubbing owners and a win-at-all-costs mindset, it's easy to become jaded.

    Eli Murphy, right, leans in to give Sierra Ricci the traditional king and queen kiss at the National Marbles Championship in Wildwood, N.J. Both of Allegheny County Pa., they won the girls and boys championship of the 94th annual National Marbles Tournament. [Associated Press]
  4. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.