August 4, 2021 - 4:25 pm
It’s been a standout first half of the season for Aviators outfielder Cody Thomas. After getting off to a slow start, batting only .200 with 24 strikeouts in 45 at-bats through the month of May, Thomas turned it around in June.
He hit .313 with 11 home runs and had 28 RBIs on his way to Triple-A West’s Player of the Month honors.
“I struggled pretty badly when we got sent to the alternate site,” Thomas said of the work the players did in lieu of the canceled 2020 minor league season.
“You can’t make excuses … but there’s no telling how that affected a lot of us players, taking a year off of actual baseball. But once you hit the season, there are no excuses.”
After shaking off that early rust, Thomas finds himself leading or toward the top of the roster in nearly every major hitting category. His 18 home runs, 52 RBIs, 20 doubles, four triples and .665 slugging percentage all lead the club.
Thomas is in his first year with the Aviators after being traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers in February.
Before his professional baseball career, Thomas was a two-sport athlete at Oklahoma, playing both baseball and quarterback for the Sooners football team.
He even left baseball in 2015 to focus on football and compete for the starting job at Oklahoma with now Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, an objective he failed to achieve.
He returned to baseball the following year and was selected in the 13th round of the 2016 draft.
Thomas now finds himself in a Triple-A West Division that is known for being hitter and home run friendly. He said multiple factors, including altitude, give the league its reputation, but he isn’t always seeking out those huge bombs when he’s at bat.
“We’re up there pretty high in places like Vegas, Salt Lake, and Albuquerque,” he said. “I just try to play my game because I know naturally I’ll probably hit some up in the air.”
Thomas credits Aviators hitting coaches Tommy Everidge and Brian McArn with his improved performance this season.
At the moment, Thomas is dealing with an Achilles injury that has kept him sidelined since July 25. He had an MRI which revealed microtears, something he describes as nothing more than tendinitis.
“It’s just a (matter) of what I feel like,” said Thomas regarding his return. “There’s no set timetable. It’s just a matter of when I start to feel 100 percent. I’d say just another week or two.”
Like most minor leaguers, Thomas is disappointed that there won’t be any playoffs this season because of COVID. However, he’s looking to keep stringing together solid at-bats while also keeping a team-oriented mindset.
“All of us want to do well, but I’ve always been a big believer in this being a team sport at the end of the day,” he said. “The more we can pull for each other and play together as a team, all the individual stats will take care of themselves.”
Contact Aidan Subira at email@example.com.
Who: Las Vegas Aviators vs. Salt Lake Bees
What: Seventh game of a 12-game Aviators homestand
When: 7:05 p.m., Thursday
Where: The Las Vegas Ballpark
Pitching: Both teams have yet to announce their pitching lineups
Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920-AM
Promotion: $2.00 Beer Night
Aviators outlook (39-39): The MLB trade deadline was on July 30 and the Aviators saw their roster shaken up a bit by Oakland A’s GM David Frost. Outfielder Greg Deichmann and left pitcher Jesús Luzardo were both dealt and left-handed reliever Sam Moll and infielder Jacob Wilson were assigned to the Aviators from Oakland. Three other players, shortstop Elvis Peralta, pitcher Aaron Brown and outfielder Mickey McDonald, have also been promoted to the Aviators from the low minors.
Salt Lake outlook (36-42): Salt Lake hasn’t won a series since early July as they sit in second-to-last place in the Triple-A- West. Keep an eye on pitcher Oliver Ortega. He is the club’s top prospect and the Los Angeles Angels’ No. 14 prospect, according to mlb.com.