New Hampshire's Thames could be a series changer
TRENTON — It’s not a stretch to call Eric Thames the best hitter in the Eastern League. In fact, stretching — yoga, to be exact — is exactly what put him in position to dominate in his second professional season.
After surgeries to his knee, quadriceps and hamstring, Thames came into 2010 with the simple goal of staying healthy.
To do that, Thames, along with teammate Callix Crabbe, started a regimen that includes Vinyasa and Yin yoga, which he says has paid real dividends.
“It keeps you loose, keeps you relaxed and calm. It’s a great thing,” Thames explained. “I’ve always known I needed to increase my flexibility, because a lot of my injuries have been because of tight muscles, so yoga was it.”
With the improved health has come a wellspring of production that put him back on the path to prospectdom.
New Hampshire’s cleanup man leads the Eastern League in RBIs, and ranks among the top ten in home runs, triples, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and, obviously, OPS.
The Thunder were not exempt for Thames’ wrath — not by a long shot.
Against Trenton the Pepperdine alum with the mile-wide smile has hit .319/.367/.884 with five home runs and 20 RBis in 91 at-bats.
Still, he doesn’t consider Trenton’s pitchers creampuffs by any stretch. In fact, he goes out of his way to tout their laurels.
“These guys always have lights-out pitching,” he says. “It seems like every time we face them they have a new prospect who throws flames.”
That’s what he’ll get in the first three games, when the Thunder send Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Manny Banuelos — not to mention Andy Pettitte — to the hill.
Betances, Warren and Banuelos all can touch the mid-90s with their fastballs, and Pettitte’s credentials are beyond discussion.
Despite his quiet nature, Thames has been a team leader in New Hampshire’s clubhouse all season long, a role he relished as his team battled the Thunder for the top spot in the Eastern League East.
“I lead by example, or at least try to,” he said. “I learn from the veterans about how to play the game right. Don’t be a virus in the clubhouse, don’t be a virus in the dugout, just help the teammate.”
His roommate, leadoff man Darin Mastroianni, says he and Thames share a similar mind set to the way approach the game, which has led to success all season long.
“We have a similar mentality the way we play the game. We’re both very intense, which is good because we can help each other through calming down a little bit,” he said, before adding a little bit of the obvious.
“When you have a guy in the middle of the order who can leave the yard at any point, drive this many runs in and hit for average, it’s impressive. He’s a rare kind of player.”