Carl Thomore touched his dying mother’s hand and made her a promise.
“I am going to stay with you, Ma,” the 12-year-old boy said.
In the summer of 2005, his mother Michele was dying from breast cancer. Carl was scheduled to play that weekend in the championship game of a baseball tournament but that seemed so unimportant.
Lying in bed, Michele had been drifting in and out of consciousness. But after her son told her of his plans, Michele opened her eyes for the first time in a week and offered some last advice.
“Go play baseball,” she said.
She died not long after. Carl earned MVP honors at the tournament.
Six years later, his mother’s words still motivate Thomore.
“That’s where it all starts,” he said.
It’s led him to Casper, where he’s one of the star attractions this season for the Ghosts. He’s a power-hitting 18-year-old outfielder with a big arm and speed whom the Colorado Rockies selected in the second round of June’s MLB draft, hoping he’ll occupy a corner spot in the outfield of Coors Field for years.
His tools were on display at last week’s Ghosts practices. His first day in the batting cage, Thomore swatted seven shots over the fence, Ghosts coach Tony Diaz recalled.
“He’s got the potential to hit 25 to 30 home runs [a season] in the big leagues,” Diaz said.
“I’m excited to see what he can do,” Ghosts General Manager Phil Choler said.
As impressive as his physical tools are, he almost never got to showcase them in professional baseball.
Thomore, who was one of the nation’s top high school ballplayers at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey, was playing last summer in a Perfect Game USA summer showcase tournament in Georgia. On one play, he slid into third, and his career nearly ended there.
Catching his foot on the infield dirt, Thomore dislocated his ankle, and his foot was twisted nearly 180 degrees.
“It was disgusting. The other team was praying for me on one knee,” Thomore said. “I looked down at my ankle and thought I’d never play baseball again.”
His foot had no pulse and was turning purple. Worse yet, a tornado watch had been issued and an ambulance could not arrive for an hour.
An orthopedic surgeon from Indiana witnessed the horrific injury from the stands. After looking over the dislocation, the physician reset the ankle to restore blood flow to the foot as Thomore clenched his teeth on a towel to fight the pain.
“Thank God for him every day,” Thomore said of the doctor.
Two days after his surgery, Thomore was in the gym working out. By November, his 60-meter dash time of 6.45 seconds — the split baseball scouts use to determine speed — was as fast as it was before the injury.
“A lot of people said I wouldn’t play again. ... That motivated me,” Thomore said.
He has returned better than ever.
Despite most teams choosing not to pitch to him, Thomore batted
.493 with three homers and 22 RBIs in only 89 plate appearances as a senior. He stole 25 bases and showed remarkable plate discipline, striking out just twice.
“You look at the intangibles ... and it’s pretty special,” Diaz said.
Thomore signed his professional contract less than a month after the Rockies drafted him 77th overall. His goal was not to just get paid, he says. It was to choose the path that would have him playing in The Show the fastest.
Thomore made his professional debut with the Ghosts on Sunday. It was not a strong showing — 0-for-4 with a throwing error — but he should develop into a favorite at Mike Lansing Field.
“The money was not an issue to me. It’s the fact that I get to do this every day for the rest of my life. That’s what motivated me, to get out here and start playing baseball,” he said. “If you really love the game, that’s a decision kids should make.”
Thomore’s doing precisely that — playing the game he loves.
And fulfilling his mother’s last wish.
“My mom, I knew what she wanted me to do,” he said. “I know she is looking down and she’s proud of me right now.”