Bat bags and an extra-large suitcase.
In many ways, they have been the defining reminders of Trayce Thompson’s temporary career path.
Over 13 years in professional baseball, overseas travel has been with nine franchises; played for 19 major and minor league teams; sold, bought or claimed six times.
At the end of each rotating phase, two things usually happen:
He packs his bag to go to a new city, a new club, a new organization.
And he tosses the old bat bag into his family’s storage unit, adding to a collection that now feels like a kaleidoscope of discarded baseball debris.
“It’s a little scary,” he said, “seeing all the different colors.”
In fact, the spectrum ranges from Chicago White Sox black to Oakland Athletic green, Arizona Diamondback red to San Diego Padre brown.
Reflecting on all the recent changes, Thompson couldn’t help himself.
“You come in, you always think you’re going to be with one team,” he admitted. “It was a mental challenge.”
But then, he noted proudly, his collection has always featured Dodger blues more than anything else.
It is the club where, six years ago, he experienced the peak of his career.
And the team that, last month, gave him a long-awaited opportunity again in the majors.
“I knew I could go to the big leagues and contribute and rebuild and be an impact player,” Thompson said recently, now more than a month out from a trade that returned him to Los Angeles, where he spent half a season. comes out. surprise with a .301 batting average, four home runs and 17 RBI in 30 games.
“But to do it here, with a lot of guys that I know, with a lot of people that I’ve spent a lot of time with, I think the common thread is just special,” he continued. “It’s something I never really thought could happen.”
For a while, Thompson thought he would be with the Dodgers for a long time.
A Southland native who attended Santa Margarita High in Orange County, Thompson was drafted by the White Sox in the second round in 2009, then traded to the Dodgers in 2015 after a successful MLB debut. .
Felt at home immediately.
Thompson went from spring training to the opening day roster in 2016. He quickly developed bonds with his new club, even moving with Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Alex Wood.
And in the first half of the postseason campaign, he flourished as a 25-year-old rookie, posting a .796 on-base percentage and 13 home runs in his first 73 games, while occasionally, occasionally hitting as many pitches. third in line.
“He carried us a month or two,” manager Dave Roberts recalled.
At the time, Thompson said he “felt like I was going to be here for a while.”
Instead, his career quickly took off.
He suffered a back injury that July. An X-ray a few weeks later revealed two broken vertebrae, an injury that ended his season.
His time with the Dodgers was also on the clock.
After flopping between the triple A’s and the major leagues in 2017, hitting just .122 in 27 games, Thompson was designated for assignment by the team at the end of next year’s spring training, from waived by the New York Yankees. Athletics two days later.
“I didn’t play well,” Thompson said of his first Dodgers stint. “That’s what it’s all about.”
His next two years weren’t much better: a self-confessed “disaster” in 2018, when he hit just .117 in 51 games with the A’s and White Sox; the 2019 midseason with Cleveland’s triple-A affiliate; and a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign spent entirely at the Diamondbacks’ alternate training facility.
“I only lived out of one big suitcase,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “Learned to be efficient with my packing.”
Despite the setbacks, he did not want to retire.
“You come in, you always think you’re going to be with one team. It was mental.”
– Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson
“I always knew I was talented,” he said, “so I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”
But he also knew that his career was on the horizon.
“I have to dig deep,” he said. “I didn’t want to end my career because I didn’t leave it all there.”
Trayce wasn’t the only member of the Thompson family to have a hard time.
While he was working in the minors, trying to rediscover his game, his older brother Klay Thompson, the All-Star guard for the Golden State Warriors, was sidelined with a series of serious injuries, and the entire 2019 season -2020 lost. with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and all of 2020-21 with a torn Achilles tendon.
Trayce said Klay came to him for advice on how he dealt with the grief of his back injury and how he coped with the mental struggles of a long rehab.
However, their conversations were also influential for Trayce.
“Seeing his mental strength to get through everything and see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s similar to what I had to go through,” Trayce said. “Not necessarily because of the injury, but just because of the performance and everything that happened in my career.
“I definitely looked at him as an inspiration. He came back from two big injuries when a lot of people counted him out and didn’t know who he was going to be or what he was going to be. So I had no excuse but to do everything to come back. [to the majors] and rebuild myself.”
For Trayce, that means having a “deep conversation” about his declining performance, trying to determine where he went wrong.
Long hours were spent in front of the computer, watching and replaying videos of his swing, and others around the sport he admired. He also had many “self-talks”, trying to fill his mind with “belief and persuasion”.
Again, Klay provided some family motivation.
“My brother is a good example of that, a guy who doesn’t shy away from a moment, doesn’t shy away from a certain shot,” Trayce said. “He’s a guy I learn from.”
While Klay returned to the court last fall, winning a fourth NBA title with the Warriors, Trayce finally returned to the majors for the first time in three years, after earning a September call-up from the Chicago Cubs last season. 21 home runs in triple-A season.
“Mentally, I had to reevaluate myself … and reinvent myself,” Thompson said. “I feel like the last couple of years, really starting in ’19, it’s been a journey towards that.”
Two days before he was set to celebrate Klay’s triumphant return in the Warriors’ championship game last month, Mychal Thompson sat in a Bay Area hotel room and witnessed his son’s latest turning point unfold in real time. .
After signing with the Padres this spring and being released after six MLB games, Trayce was back in the minors, pitching for the Detroit Tigers’ triple-A affiliate in his latest attempt to revive his career. .
“It feels like he’s back home. It was his dream to put on a Dodger jersey again.
– Mychal Thompson, father of Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson
During the afternoon of Father’s Day on June 19, in a game that Mychal was watching live on his computer from his hotel room, Trayce hit a sixth single that raised his season average to .299.
Mychal was happy. Then, he was surprised.
In the seventh inning, Trayce was ejected from the game.
oh no Mychal thought. Was Trayce hurt?
But after a while, Mychal’s phone rang. Trayce was at the end of the line.
“Hey, Dad,” Trayce said. “I just came to trade.”
“Dedgers,” his son said excitedly.
Mychal immediately recognized its significance, knowing full well that his son had feelings for the organization—the blue memories he had filed away in the storage unit over the years.
“Every hair on my body stood on end,” the former Lakes center recalled recently. “It feels like he’s back home. It was his dream to put on a Dodger jersey again.
“It was an answer to my prayers,” Mychal added.
Meanwhile, Tracye helped answer some of the Dodgers’ middle-of-the-pack issues.
When he was injured in the outfield, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team immediately targeted the right-handed slugger.
“He made a strong impact when he was here,” Friedman said. “He was someone we watched closely and always looked up to.”
And in what turned out to be his longest major league game since 2018, Trayce flashed his trademark power — it’s a small sample size, but his .542 slugging percentage is the best on the team — and his outfield defense strong agreed with the new sustainability. temsik
“With Trayce being comfortable, knowing his surroundings, I think that gave him the best chance to execute from the start,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy you can’t bet against.”
Trayce’s role for the rest of the season is unclear.
Chris Taylor is close to returning from a broken leg. The Dodgers are reportedly in the market for another bat heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Still, for Trayce, there hasn’t been a recent trip to the storage unit; there’s no indication she’ll need to repack her bag anytime soon.
So far, simply returning to the majors — and with the Dodgers, in particular — has been a useful first step.
“A lot of teams probably didn’t see it from me, that’s fine,” he said. “But I always knew I could be here.”