Reno Aces outfielder Alek Thomas has a target date to make it to the big leagues.
Like any minor-leaguer, Thomas wanted to get that call sooner rather than later. But for Thomas, one of the top-25 prospects in minor-league baseball, he wants to be in the big leagues by Aug. 26, 2022.
“I’m pretty sure we have that date circled,” Thomas told Nevada Sports Net.
That's because the Arizona Diamondbacks start a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox in a three-game interleague series from Aug. 26-28. Thomas' father, Allen, is the White Sox's director of strength and condition, and playing against his dad's team is a dream of the 21-year-old outfielder.
“My goal is to be up before that and help the team win,” Thomas said.
The Chicago native spent his early years around the game, saying the White Sox's 2005 World Series win over the Houston Astros left an indelible mark on him and was a moment he'll forever cherish. Just 5 years old at the time, Thomas got to mingle with the players on that team that went on to win baseball's top prize.
“When I got that chance to hang out with him, it meant the world to me,” Thomas said “I’d say 2005 was a big, big deal. I don’t remember too much of that. Juan Uribe almost sprayed me with champagne, but I was only 5 years old so he didn’t. That was cool. Just being out there in the outfield and being with some of the great players. Todd Frazier. Ken Griffey Jr. was there at one point. Jim Thome. Jermaine Dye. A lot of guys I can name just being out there with them.”
Alek, one of three siblings, credits his upbringing and his dad’s career for helping him get into the game. Allen Thomas was a 45th-round pick by the White Sox in 1996 who topped out at Class-A ball before moving into the coaching profession.
“I wouldn’t be here without my dad and where he’s come from and what he’s been through,” Thomas said. “Me just being there in the clubhouse and getting that experience and also having him as a strength coach and a baseball coach, all that mixed together pretty good.”
The 21-year-old grew up a three-sport star playing football, basketball and baseball for Chicago’s Mount Carmel High, an athletic factory that calls Donovan McNabb, Antoine Walker, Chris Chelios and Simeon Rice among its alums. Thomas committed to play for TCU out of high school before being a second-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft (No. 63 overall). Instead of going to college, he got a $1.2 million bonus to turn pro and has shot through the Diamondback's farm system.
In 2019, Thomas earned a spot in the All-Star Futures Game. In 2020, he spent time at Arizona’s alternate training site after the minor-league season was canceled due to the pandemic. Thomas moved up to Double-A Amarillo this season played at the All-Star Futures Game yet again before advancing to Triple-A Reno last month. Despite turning 21 in April, he's on the verge of the big leagues.
“I always knew baseball was the sport for me,” Thomas said. “I just loved playing the other two sports. That’s just my DNA. My dad played four sports. He did track, basketball and football, too. I think it’s just what we do, and I just like competing out there. And football was fun. I was committed to go to TCU for football and baseball. I was going to do that. But I’m not going to pass up an opportunity to play in professional baseball. That was my mindset when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I wanted to play in the major leagues. I think that was my goal ever since I was in kindergarten.”
Thomas said he has no regrets about picking the pros over college. In fact, Thomas wouldn't even have been draft eligible until this summer if he had gone to TCU, so he's taken a quicker path to the brink of the big leagues thanks to his decision to turn pro out of high school.
“I’ve learned that I’m a pretty even keeled guy,” Thomas said. "I might strike out four times, but I’m still going to come in the dugout the same way and just be chill and be the same guy. I’m fine with living away from home. I never really had a problem with that. I’ve done it in the summers with high schools, so the transition was pretty easy for me.”
Thomas has appeared in 26 games for the Aces, hitting .336 with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 113 at-bats. He’s walked 11 times with 28 strikeouts and has a .405 on-base percentage and .619 slugging mark, giving him an OPS above 1.000. Thomas said he isn't focused on being one of MiLB's top-ranked prospects.
“I try not to pay too much attention to the prospect stuff because at the end of the day that stuff doesn’t matter,” Thomas said. “There are guys that are not on that list that are really good as well. It doesn’t really matter. I have to just keep my head on straight and focus on the goal, focus on the task at hand. Just keep on moving forward.”