Great Falls, MT-Tommy Thompson is no stranger to guiding minor league baseball players in nascent stages of their careers. The Oklahoma City-born Thompson was named the new manager of the Great Falls Voyagers back in January, and come mid-June he'll be at the helm of a Chicago White Sox affiliate for a sixth consecutive season.
The Boca Raton, Florida resident alternated each of the last five seasons as a manager for full-season posts in Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Thompson says he's ready for the challenge of a more compact schedule with the Voyagers. "I'm very excited to come to Great Falls. Even though it's a shorter season, it's a great opportunity to work with the younger players that are just coming into the organization."
"Long-season has a month of spring training to prepare for the 140-game schedule, while in short-season you have new players straight from the draft who only have a few days to prepare. We must protect the new pitchers arms and innings."
Thompson enters the 2016 campaign with 699 career coaching victories. His first job as a manager came back in 1990 for the Utica Blue Sox (White Sox affiliate) of the New York-Penn League. Thompson has also managed in the Reds and Orioles farm systems, winning a Carolina League championship with Frederick (MD) in 2007. His 2012 Winston-Salem Dash squad produced a full-season minor league-best 87-51 record. That earned Thompson the Carolina League Manager of the Year honor. His coaching career also took him to the independent baseball circuit, managing for two different clubs in the defunct Northern League and one season in the Frontier League.
The 58-year-old Thompson played 10 seasons in the minor leagues with both the Braves and White Sox organizations. He was selected in the 28th round of the 1979 draft out of the University of Oklahoma. Due to his own lengthy playing career, Thompson has the ability to relate to players and what they encounter in professional baseball. He served as a player/coach during the 1988 season when he suited up for both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Vancouver. After coaching in Birmingham, he was called up to Vancouver as a player near the end of the season. Thompson says his job as a manager is to "introduce these players into the White Sox system, the fundamentals of how we want to play the game in the big leagues. We must have patience in their development, and give them a chance for their skills to improve."
Thompson spent the majority of his playing career as a catcher, third baseman, and first baseman. One of his best highlights as a player was the 1985 season, when he hit .321 and fell just seven plate appearances shy of qualifying for the Southern League batting title.
In addition to his managerial and player credentials, Thompson served as the White Sox catching coordinator from 1992 to 2005. The long-time member of the organization has been watching the first-place South Siders hot start to the 2016 season, and says it is "awesome that they've gotten off to such a great start the first couple months. I think they have a chance to compete all year with the starting pitching and bullpen. Lawrie, Frazier, Rollins, Sands, and Jackson are great additions on the field as well as in the clubhouse."
With Great Falls recent success of reaching the Pioneer League playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons, Thompson hopes to feed off the electricity created in Chicago and continue the Voyagers winning ways. The 2016 season begins anew for Great Falls on the road at Helena June 17th.
The Voyagers home opener is scheduled for June 23rd at Centene Stadium, also against Helena. For the entire Great Falls schedule, ticketing information, or news on other Voyagers related events, visit www.gfvoyagers.com or call 406.452.5311.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.