Like many recent college graduates, Eric Thomas is back at home living with his parents.
The Dallastown High School graduate completed his degree from Rider University in 2015, where he was also a four-year pitcher on the baseball team. Unlike most college grads, however, Thomas isn't stuck working some 9-to-5 job in a cubicle. Sure, he's been trying to land a job since he graduated, but it's more complicated than just sending out resumes, putting on a suit and going to an interview.
For Thomas, trying to jump-start a pro baseball career was more about putting in countless hours and days inside of Backyard University — a baseball training facility in Red Lion — hoping an opportunity would come his way, rather than succumbing to life in the real world.
It just so happened that his opportunity was presented to him in the form of Salvador Paniagua, a catcher for the York Revolution. During the offseason, Paniagua frequented the training center owned and operated by former Revolution player Jason Aspito and would catch Thomas' bullpen sessions.
"He liked what he saw, put in a good word and now I'm out here looking to do the best I can and help the team win some games," Thomas said following York's first day of spring training on Monday.
Now, he's hoping the rest, as they say, is history.
Dominating the local scene: Growing up, Thomas' talent on the baseball diamond was always recognizable. By the time he got to high school and starred for Dallastown, it was easy to see that he was, at the very least, going to continue his baseball career in college.
As a senior, Thomas put up numbers, both as a pitcher and hitter, that would win him York-Adams League Division I Player of the Year honors. He was 6-2 as a starting pitcher, posting a 1.24 ERA, and also hit .396 at the plate. Those numbers earned him a spot as a pitcher at Rider, where his stats fluctuated from year-to-year, as did his role on the team.
"I came in and had a good freshman year as a reliever," Thomas said about his time at Rider. "I started a couple games my sophomore year, but moved back to the 'pen and seemed to hit my stride my senior year."
Thomas had an ERA just north of 4.00 as a freshman, but saw that balloon to over 8.00 as a sophomore and slightly improve to 6.56 as a junior. But, it was his senior season when Thomas finally found his calling as a late-inning man, either as a set-up guy or closer. Thomas ended his senior year with 10 saves and a 1.33 ERA, beginning the year with 21 straight outings without giving up an earned run.
For his career with the Broncs, Thomas could be described as effectively wild, allowing 76 hits and 71 walks in 88 1/3 innings. He struck out 102 batters. His superior senior season earned the 6-foot, 4-inch left-hander the right to give pro baseball a shot.
Playing for the hometown club: Depending how you look at it, there are both positives and negatives to making your pro debut for your hometown baseball team.
On the plus side, Thomas has already been told by several friends and family members that they'll be in attendance for the Revs' home games at PeoplesBank Park this season. Unfortunately, that might come with ample amounts of ticket requests, something that he had to laugh off when it was brought up during Monday's practice.
"I haven't even thought about it yet," Thomas said. "Like I said, I'm taking this one day at a time. It's very cool. If I can, that'd be great. A lot of people want to come out, so it's great to know that there's local support."
While he remains optimistic about his prospects as a pro, Thomas also understands that right now, the roster is full of guys with big league experience, as well as players who have previously pitched in York. He's also the youngest member of the team at 23 and will need to make an impression on pitching coach Paul Fletcher and manager Mark Mason if he wants to stick around past the period when rosters are reduced. So, he's taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
He's also unsure of what his role will be. He's more comfortable as a reliever, but willing to do whatever it takes to not only help the team win games, but also stick around as long as possible.
"I am guessing, and from my conversations with Mase, I'm going to guess I'll be a reliever," Thomas said. "It's what I did in college and what I like to do, but obviously, in order to make myself the most valuable for the team, I'm willing to do whatever they need me to do."
Like most kids who play baseball growing up, Thomas had the dream of making it as a pro. While he didn't live out the dream of being drafted and it isn't on a big league club, he's successfully made it to a pro camp.
The next step will come on April 21 when the Revs open the regular season at New Britain. At that point, if he's still on the roster, Thomas can officially call himself a pro baseball player.
"I've been playing baseball since I was a little kid, and most kids, their aspirations are to make it to the majors," he said. "This is an awesome opportunity for me to represent my hometown and there are guys on this team who even have made it to the majors already and are looking to get back. That's their goal when you play baseball, so it's mine as well, and this is an awesome chance for me to potentially do that."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com