Coming out of T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, Brady Thomas was a lifelong Florida State fan who saw an opportunity to chase his dream of playing for the Seminoles.
He received little interest from South Carolina or Clemson despite earning all-region honors, so he decided to cast his lot with FSU.
Thomas appeared in 30 games, getting 26 at-bats, in 2006 and '07 with the Seminoles. He was stuck on the bench behind former All-American Buster Posey and battling ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
He sat out the 2008 season and knew it was time to transfer to a school closer to home. He picked USC and has no regrets about leaving Tallahassee.
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Thomas landed with the Gamecocks thanks to an assist from summer-ball teammate DeAngelo Mack, a former Gamecocks outfielder who gave a tip to then-USC assistant Monte Lee.
Last year, Thomas found playing time hard to come by again. Stuck behind catchers Justin Dalles and Kyle Enders, he appeared in 21 games with 23 at-bats. The highlight was a pinch-hit, two-run double against East Carolina in an NCAA regional. He hit his only home run of the season in the SEC tournament against LSU.
Still, Thomas never doubted he would get his chance.
"I had to be patient. I wasn't sure when, but I knew I would get a chance," he said. "I thought Enders and I might split time (this season) because it's a lot for a catcher to catch four or five games a week."
Enders has started 31 games and Thomas 20, six as the designated hitter. In the past 14 games, the catching duties have evened out: Thomas has started eight times, Enders six.
More playing time has turned into more production for Thomas. He ranks fourth on the team with a .329 batting average and six home runs. He has 23 RBIs, giving USC 10 players with at least 22.
Thomas had two home runs in this past weekend's series against Alabama, including a walk-off, two-run shot to give the sixth-ranked Gamecocks a 9-7 victory on Friday.
He came off the bench to hit a three-run homer and finished with a career-high four runs scored and tied his career high with four RBIs in Sunday's 20-15 victory.
"I feel like I have power, but I would never consider myself a home run hitter," Thomas said. "I love hitting doubles, that's a pretty good felling to me."
Entering tonight's game at Kentucky (24-20, 7-14), South Carolina leads the SEC with a 16-5 record and is 35-9 overall.
It's been contributions from players like Thomas that has helped make this season special.
"There aren't kids that are tougher than Brady Thomas," USC assistant coach Chad Holbrook said. "We're lucky to have him on our team."
Thomas plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility because of the time he missed due to his illness.
"Does he have a case? I think he probably does," Tanner said. "Whether he's successful in acquiring that, I don't know. But are we going to pursue that? Absolutely."
And should he return next season, getting enough playing time should not be a concern.