From the pitcher’s mound at Mauldin High’s McClain Field the past four years, Cory Thompson could look up and see the billboards behind the plate that honor past Mavericks who’ve been selected in Major League Baseball’s draft.
Now he’s ready for his own.
“My teammates joked around about it with me, but it didn’t hit me until (assistant) coach (John) Mitchell asked me this season, ‘What color jersey do you want on yours?’ ” Thompson said.
Thompson should be selected in the early rounds of this week’s MLB draft, which begins today. If projections pan out, his name is likely to be called early Friday, when rounds three through 10 will be held.
In Baseball America’s draft projections, Thompson ranks No. 121. The Philadelphia Phillies hold the 121st overall pick, which is the 15th pick of the fourth round.
Thompson would be the fifth Mauldin player drafted in the past six years and could be the highest selection the school has produced.
Madison Younginer went in the seventh round in 2009, and former Maverick David Marchbanks was a seventh-round selection out of USC in 2003.
Like Younginer and Marchbanks, Thompson has been a dominant starting pitcher for Mauldin. Featuring a fastball that consistently clocks 89-92 mph, he had a 1.70 ERA this season. He struck out 67 batters in 53 innings.
But Thompson is also a standout hitter who led off and played shortstop. He hit .416 with 42 runs, six home runs and 23 RBIs. He stole 16 bases in 17 attempts and struck out six times.
While pro scouts have been split on the position Thompson would play, he believes whatever team drafts him will allow him to hit first.
“Some scouts say if hitting doesn’t work out, I could switch back to pitching, but I couldn’t switch back to hitting after not hitting for a few years,” Thompson said.
Thompson, who has committed to South Carolina, said he will sit down with his family after the draft and determine if he will sign with a pro team or head to Columbia. He said the decision will be based primarily on how highly he’s drafted.
“Whatever path he chooses, I’m confident Cory will succeed,” said Mauldin coach Jim Maciejewski, who added that Thompson’s even-keeled personality helped him perform well under the watchful eye of scouts all season.
Scouts didn’t stop watching after the school year. After taking his final exam May 24, Thompson and his father, Fred, traveled to Phoenix last week for a pre-draft workout with the Arizona Diamondbacks. From there, it was on to Chicago for a workout with the White Sox on Sunday.
“It was nice going to Chicago. I was born there and haven’t been back in 13 years,” said Thompson, who also worked out for the Cardinals (in Florida), Nationals, Padres, Dodgers, Red Sox (in Atlanta) and Reds (in Charlotte) this year.
Fred Thompson met his first pro scout when Cory was a ninth-grade starter for Mauldin. It was an out-of-the-blue meeting during a game against T.L. Hanna.
“The scout came up and talked to me and said he’d keep in touch, and I just thought, ‘Wow, that was kind of strange,’ ” Fred Thompson said.
Three years later, Fred Thompson said a scout from just about every Major League team has visited their home this year.
“It’s gone by pretty fast,” he said.
Now, Cory Thompson, who capped his high school career by having his name called at graduation Wednesday night, waits to have it called one more time this week.
“I kind of want to watch (the draft), but my dad was telling me that I probably shouldn’t watch it. You don’t want to get too mad or too anxious,” Thompson said. “I just want to sit back and enjoy it.”