PHOENIX – At just 21, Alek Thomas has already played in two MLB Futures Games.
The Diamondbacks prospect is with the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles and, along with All Star Eduardo Escobar, was one of two representatives from the organization at this year’s All-Star festivities at Coors Field.
After playing in the 2019 Futures Game, Thomas wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to play in it again.
“This time I’ll get to actually soak it all in and have a good time and not be nervous or anything like that,” Thomas said. In 2019, Thomas pinch hit in the fourth inning but didn’t reach base. This year the outfielder started the game, batting leadoff.
Foreshadowing what would turn into an 8-3 victory for the National League, Thomas was involved in the first out of the game by catching a scorching hit to left by the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr.
His brother, Josh Castro, was there to see it.
“He’s just hungry. He’s really motivated,” Castro said. “I think the biggest thing for me watching him play is just the growth that has come as he gets older in his development.”
Sam Levitt, director of broadcasting for the Sod Poodles, said Thomas, who is a highly touted prospect, has lived up to the hype.
“He’s been everything I could have imagined and more,” Levitt said.
Levitt described Thomas as a true five-tool player whose speed and plate discipline have impressed Levitt the most, creating some of the more exciting moments of the season.
“Any play where Alek shows off his speed is one you’re going to remember, because he’s one of those guys that, when he hits the ball down the line, or when he hits the ball in the alley, you know there’s a chance that that not only is it going to be extra bases, but that he could turn it into a triple,” Levitt said.
Levitt observes Thomas keeping up with his routine. He said that, despite Thomas’ young age, the Sod Poodles coaches see his maturity as one of his biggest strengths. Keeping a consistent routine off the field helps Thomas’ steady play.
Levitt attributes Thomas’ baseball maturity to his experience growing up around a major league clubhouse because of his father, Allen Thomas, the director of strength and conditioning for the White Sox.
Thomas wants to put in the work to reach the big leagues. He said he’s been focusing on adjusting to how people are pitching to him this season.
He had down months in June (.247) and July (.231) compared to hitting .321 in May but said, “That’s just baseball.”
Castro knows his brother will make the adjustments he needs to succeed. Thomas has always been a daredevil, he said, never backing down from a challenge. Thomas would try to dunk a basketball when he was too small to do so and challenge older, bigger kids to athletic competitions.
Thomas and Castro were both born in Tucson, so the Diamondbacks drafting him held special significance for the family.
“When we found out that he was selected by them, it was just a dream come true,” Castro said.
Part of that dream come true for Thomas is the many prospects also in the Diamondbacks farm system. He looks forward to a bright future for an organization that’s stumbling this year.
“The future is not only me but all the other guys as well and I got a good feeling about what’s to come here in the next couple years,” Thomas said. “Hold tight.”
His talent is what landed him in the Futures Game, where he was looking forward to seeing friends and family
He knows several of the other up-and-coming stars, including Nolan Gorman and Quinn Priester.
More importantly, his family was there.
His parents, brother, grandmother, girlfriend and girlfriend’s mom all came to Denver to watch after not being able to see him play since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His girlfriend came to San Antonio right before the Futures Game to watch him, but, aside from that, none of his loved ones had seen him play in over a year. Castro said the weekend was a family reunion of sorts since the whole crew hadn’t been together since before the pandemic began.
Castro and their grandmother live in Arizona and their parents live in Chicago.
“Hopefully I do something special or, if I don’t, it’s OK, as long as they get to see me play,” Thomas said before the game. “I think my grandmother hasn’t seen me play since high school, so this will be pretty cool for her and pretty cool for me as well.”
His brother coming was especially meaningful because he couldn’t remember the last time his brother had been able to watch him play live.
Castro recalled a spring training game in 2019. It’s still a “blessing” for Castro to watch Thomas play even though he’s been watching Thomas’ pursuits since he played T-ball.
Both hope there will be many games in their future.