There was a shriek in the Thompson household Wednesday afternoon in North Sacramento.
Everyone - family and friends - was elated to the point of throwing couch cushions about the news of Shaq Thompson being drafted in the 18th round of the Major League Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Everyone, that is, except Captain Cool himself.
Typical, humble Shaq. The recently graduated Grant High School football star grinned, high-fived all comers and absorbed the news with the sort of calm and composure that has shaped his sporting career and made him such a beloved figure to youth and elderly in Del Paso Heights, where sports figures are generally hailed as heroes.
Thompson, of course, is best known for his football ability. The Bee's 2011 Player of the Year and a national recruit safety unlike few this region has experienced, Thompson said he will indeed report to the Washington Huskies late this summer to begin his scholarship tour. But first, he expects to sign with the Red Sox in the coming days and give minor league ball this summer a go.
"I'm definitely playing football at Washington, but I'll report to baseball first," Thompson said. "I think this is great. I'm surprised. I thought I might get drafted, but much later."
As much of a natural Thompson is in football - he glides as a tailback, hits with fury as a safety - baseball was a challenge this spring. He looked rusty at the plate in particular. Thompson didn't play the sport as a junior and very little as a sophomore as he competed in track and field. He twice won Sac-Joaquin Section sprint championships and reached the CIF State Track and Field Championships.
But Thompson longed for baseball, and the Pacers longed to have him back.
Thompson's mere presence drew large crowds for home and away games and his size and untapped skills intrigued scouts. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Thompson looked like a linebacker roaming the outfield. His remarkable speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground, and his cannon arm had one scout at a game earlier this season saying, "He's draftable for his defense and speed alone."
At the plate, Thompson batted .305. He had 18 hits and struck out 17 times. Despite the strikeouts, his composure never wavered.
"So many high school kids or players at any age, they strike out and they throw their bat or their batting glove, or have a sour face, but not Shaq," Grant coach Danny Chavez said. "He would jog off the field like a real leader, with no emotion. Not that he didn't care. He hates to fail, but he didn't crack. He didn't let anyone see that he was bothered."
So how good can Thompson be in baseball?
"I just know the kid has a phenomenal arm and all the speed in the world, and he can track any ball down," Chavez said. "He has that great athletic ability and great mental approach, and he's such a quality young man, so why not take a chance on putting him in your organization? This game is all about potential and he's got amazing potential."
Thompson said he's eager for the challenge. He doesn't know how far he'll go in baseball, and he reminds that football remains a deep-rooted passion. But he has one chance to experience both, so he's seizing it.
"I'm just glad I played baseball again because I realized how fun it is, how much I missed it," Thompson said. "I know it's a game of failure and it is a hard game to adjust to. I'm looking forward to meeting new people in baseball, then it'll be football."
- By Joe Davidson
Follow on Twitter: @sb_joedavidson