Freddie Thon remembers what it is like to be a kid at a baseball stadium. He knows what it’s like to collect baseball cards and what it means to get an autograph from a ball player.
The nephew of a former major leaguer and the son of a scout, Thon grew up around baseball but had to sneak around to get autographs because his dad and uncle didn’t want him to bother players.
Thon credits his uncle Dickie and his father Frankie with helping him become a better ball player.
“(But) my mom always made sure I stayed humble,” Thon said.
Thon is usually the first one of the Indians to sign autographs after batting practice and he was the last player two nights ago when he hit a game-ending grand slam that powered Spokane to an 8-6 win over visiting Everett.
After doing two interviews amidst light rain and receiving the baseball from a generous fan 20 minutes after the home run, Thon was still signing autographs.
“I just feel special that the kids want my autograph,” said Thon prior to Tuesday’s game. “I mean, I’m a minor leaguer, and they were waiting for my autograph, also. It doesn’t take a lot to give an autograph.”
With the abundance of first basemen in the Texas Rangers organization – Mark Teixeira at the major league level, Adrian Gonzalez at Triple-A and teammate John Mayberry Jr., who played first base at Stanford but was drafted as an outfielder – Thon is trying to set himself apart from the pack.
Prior to Monday’s 4-for-5 performance, which included a double, two runs and his first home run of the season, Thon was hitting .238 with five hits in 21 plate appearances. He raised his average to .346 and his RBI total to six.
Hitting a game-ending home run was something Thon had always envisioned, but never experienced.
“I thought about it every day,” he said. “Every time I went up to the plate, I would think about it.”
Thon doesn’t have to think about it anymore.
With the bases loaded and the Indians trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, launched a low fastball past the batting cages of The Grotto section at Avista Stadium to extend the Indians’ win streak to three.
“Definitely the best baseball moment of my career,” Thon said. “It was a lot of fun. I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe it actually happened.”
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