The Prospect: High School, College, and the Minor Leagues
Images and memorabilia from the beginning. Click an image to expand the slideshow.
Columbus High School, Blue Devils
(Fall 1982 - Spring 1986)
Frank was a multi-sport talent (football, baseball, basketball) in his time at CHS, but baseball was always his passion. As a sophomore in '84, Frank led his team to a state championship batting over .400 at cleanup. As a senior, Thomas batted .450, besting his junior average by a full tenth, and hit 13 home runs with 52 runs batted in. That '86 team finished with a 25-5 record, finishing 2nd in the state tournament. Despite a dominant high school baseball career, Frank went undrafted in the '86 Amateur, and set off to Auburn University to honor a football scholarship he had previously committed to. Highlight reels full of HS football exploits had pigeon-holed Frank into a sport more reflective of his stature and presence.
HONORS: All-State; Bi-City Player of the Year;
FACTS: made the CHS varsity football and basketball teams as a freshman in the fall of '82, but was relegated to the JV baseball team the following spring; was the points leader on the CHS Varsity Basketball team; while touted as possibly the best prep tight end in the country, Frank served double duty as team kicker on the CHS football team, going 15-for-15 on PATs as a senior.
Auburn University, Tigers/War Eagles
(Fall 1986 - Spring 1989)
Frank began his career at Auburn in the fall of 1986 as the backup tight end for the University's football team, seeing considerable playing time. Frank made 3 receptions for a total of 45 yards that season, but Coach Pat Dye was most impressed with Big Frank's ability to read defenses and make stone-walled blocks. At the end of the season, despite coming to the school on a football scholarship, Frank earned a walk on spot as cleanup hitter for the baseball team. Though Frank would remain on the football team until the early weeks of the 1987 season, when injuries sidelined him, spring baseball changed the direction of his athletic career. As a freshman Frank hit .359, mashing 21 homers and scoring 68 RBI, earning him Freshman All-American Team and
1st Team All-SEC spots at first base. With baseball given Frank's undivided attention in the spring of '88, the big man set out to best his frosh performance. While he was highly successful, again named to the All-SEC team, he saw lower power numbers as teams began to pitch around his bat with greater frequency. Deciding to enter the Draft, 1989 would be Frank's final season at Auburn, and he remained true to form, leading Auburn to its first SEC title and being named SEC MVP. OTHER HONORS: named to the 1987 USA Baseball team; 1988 Cape Code League member. FACTS: made career long 26 yard grab against Georgia Tech in the '86 football season, setting Auburn up for a TD; tied future star and teammate Albert Belle (LSU) for the slugging title in the '87 baseball season with 21 dingers.
With the Olympics still one year out, the 1987 USA Team competed in three summer series; the annual Red, White, & Blue Tour, the USA vs. Japan Championship Series, and the Pan-American Games. As a member of the USA Team, 1st baseman Frank Thomas batted .339, with 13 runs, 2 HRs, and 15 RBIs (62 at bats). Team USA blazed through the first 8 games of the Pan-Am tournament undefeated, but football camp called Big Frank back to Auburn, and he missed the 9th and final game for the gold medal. Team USA fell to Cuba 13-9, after having previously defeated them in the tournament.
FACT: Frank robbed 4 bases in his summer with Team USA.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The Cape League has been an amateur baseball tradition since 1885, annually uniting the most talented of collegiate hopefuls in one region for the summer since 1963. In 1988, Frank was invited to join the league and would represent the Orleans Cardinals at 1st base. Frank was one of the team's most prolific hitters, batting .278, leading the team with 6 home runs and 30 runs going into the playoffs. Going 22-20 in the regular season, Orleans finished the summer as 1st runner up, falling to league champions Wareham in the best of 3 final series, 2 games to 1.
White Sox Farm System
Gulf Coast League White Sox (1989),
Sarasota White Sox (1989-90), A-Florida
Birmingham Barons (1990), AA-Alabama
After being drafted 7th in the 1st round of the June '89 Amateur Draft, Frank was immediately sent to play rookie ball with the White Sox of the Gulf Coast League. His time in the GCL was short lived, as just 17 games into the stint - and a dominating .365, 11 RBI effort - the big man was promoted to Single-A Sarasota. Frank saw immediate success at the A level; in 55 games he batted .277, with 52 hits and 30 RBIs. At the beginning of the 1990 Season, Frank had an impressive Spring Training debut, batting .636, with 2 dingers and 7 RBIs over the course of March's Grapefruit League. One of his bombs occurred against
against Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, when he sent a monsterous shot over the 50' high center field fence, some 410 feet away. His power and presence was the talk of the entire MLB, and serious rumors swirled, hinting Big Frank might be sent up north to displace veteran Greg Walker for opening day. Rather than purchase Frank's contract and be faced with early arbitration, the front office placed Frank with Double-A Birmingham (.323, 18 HRs, 71 RBIs, 112 BBs across 109 games), opting to call him up deep into the summer on August 2nd. For his prowess and poise, Frank was awarded the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and a launching point for a historic career.