Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meet a Coach: Marcus Thames

The New York Yankees are expecting to have an offensive juggernaut take the field day in and day out throughout the 2018 season with nine-or-ten guys that are capable of coming up with a big hit, drawing a big walk and keeping the line moving on any given night. With a lineup that will consist of some combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Neil Walker, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Brandon Drury, and Gleyber Torres (eventually) you have to think the easiest job in all of baseball here in 2018 has to belong to the Yankees hitting coach, Marcus Thames. Now while I exaggerate just a tad about his job being easy, I don’t at all when I say that his job has to be one of the more fun jobs to possess here this season working with that cast of guys. Let’s meet the man in charge of keeping the Yankees offense up to the task of putting up crooked numbers in any inning of any game this season. This is Meet a Coach: The Marcus Thames Edition.

Marcus Markley Thames, born March 6, 1977, played with four different teams including the New York Yankees three separate times during his playing career from 2002 to 2011 and has since spent his time in the minor leagues with the club as a coach. During the 2013 season Thames was the hitting coach for the High-A Tampa Yankees and was promoted to the Trenton Thunder in the same position for the 2014 season drawing rave reviews from one of the then Yankees top prospects Robert Refsnyder and others.

Thames was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the 30th round of the 1996 MLB Draft but did not make a true impact in the minor leagues until 2001. Thames was with the Double-A Norwich Navigators that season, and he batted .321 with 31 home runs and 97 RBI where he was named to Baseball America’s minor league All-Star team and where he put himself on the map for the Yankees. New York was so impressed with Thames that they called him up before a June 10 game in 2002 and Thames responded immediately. Thames, facing the Arizona Diamondbacks big left-hander Randy Johnson, hit the first home run of his career on his first at bat becoming just the 80th player in MLB history to do so. Thames earned his first curtain call from the Bronx faithful, what a moment if you were fortunate enough to see it live.

Thames’ tenure with the Yankees ended on June 6, 2003 when he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra. Thames went on to hit a home run in his first at bat with the Rangers as well before moving on to the Detroit Tigers for the 2006 season. For the 2006 and 2007 seasons Thames spent time with Detroit and their Triple-A affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens due to the plethora of talent in the Detroit outfield. After injuries to Dmitri Young, Craig Monroe and others Thames worked his way into the rotation of outfielders and set career highs in every offensive category including a .256 average, 26 home runs and 60 RBI in just 348 at bats along the way. The Tigers tried to find at bats for Thames anyway they could in 2007 and had the lifetime outfielder learn first base in spring training and the team was rewarded in 2007 and in 2008 when Thames continued to impress with his power. Thames hit eight home runs in seven consecutive games from June 11 to June 17, 2008 becoming the first member of the Detroit Tigers to achieve the feat.

Thames spent the 2009 season in Detroit as well without any notable achievements but was back in the New York groove in 2010 when he signed a minor league deal with the club. Thames made the Opening Day roster and was set to be a platoon partner with Brett Gardner in left field before his defense forced him to accept a bench role. Thames was delegated to the bench behind Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Austin Kearns who was traded for before the trade deadline and ended up playing in just 82 games that season. In half of a season Kearns hit .288 with 12 home runs, mainly against left-handed pitching.

Thames elected free agency in November of 2010 but was right back with the team on July 22, 2011 after New York signed him to another minor league deal. Thames never played a game for the Yankees at any level that season and would retire from the game a member of the New York Yankees before pursuing his career in coaching with the ball club. Thames has continuously defied the odds and had defied the odds once again with his promotion to assistant hitting coach with the club before the 2016 season. Thames has continued to impress with the Yankees young hitters and has worked his way all the way to Yankees hitting coach for the 2018 season. Congratulations to him, his family and all the young Yankees hitters that he once mentored when they were in the various Yankees Minor League affiliates. It should be a fun season to watch and you would have to think that Thames will be the envy of all hitting coaches around the league here in 2018.

I mean, come on. Who doesn’t want to coach the Yankees potential offense this coming season? I know I would if Thames doesn’t want to. Just let me know. Thanks in advance.

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