When Cody Thomas was promoted to Double-A by the Los Angeles Dodgers, he received a warm welcome in one of his former homes.
Thomas was a multisport athlete at OU from 2013-2016, playing football as a quarterback and baseball as an outfielder. While there, Thomas developed a special connection with Sooners fans, who have kept a close eye on his minor league career since he was drafted in 2016.
Being just a two-hour drive from Norman, almost every Tulsa home game was filled with OU supporters who turned out in droves to see the former Sooner. Thomas gave them their money’s worth, hitting a career-high 23 home runs and 76 RBIs to earn a spot in the Texas League All-Star Game.
“It seemed like everywhere we went, they were there,” Thomas said on Aug. 3. “When I was playing in Tulsa, there were OU fans at almost every game. They were awesome to play in front of back then, and they still are, now. I was in Salt Lake City a couple weeks ago for a game, and I heard a few Boomer Sooner chants, so it’s really cool that the Sooner nation travels that far.”
On August 26, Oklahoma fans won’t have to travel too far to see Thomas play, as his current team, the Las Vegas Aviators, will play the Oklahoma City Dodgers at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. It will surely bring back memories for Thomas, who played there in the 2016 Big 12 Tournament with Oklahoma.
“That’s gonna be really cool,” Thomas said. “I’m really excited to see my family and my fiancée, who I haven’t gotten to see since spring training. I know a lot of people that still live in Oklahoma that will get to come and watch … there’s a lot to be excited about.”
Thomas arrived at OU in 2013, playing his first year of football and baseball in 2014 after redshirting his freshman season. Before college, Thomas was no stranger to handling the weight of multiple sports. During the spring of his junior year at Colleyville Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas, he was involved in spring football, track, and baseball.
His high school football coach, Mike Fuller, still remembers vividly April 10, 2012, when Thomas got to school at 6:30 a.m., bringing receivers with him for practice. He then had first period off and went to lift weights for an hour before going to class. After school, Thomas anchored the 4-x-100 and 4-x-200 meter relays in district meets for the Panthers, winning the latter by a margin of 15 meters.
When the meet ended, he made a beeline to his truck and raced to a bus taking the baseball team to Irving High School. Thomas made it just in time and crushed the first pitch he saw into deep right field for a home run. The Panthers went on to win 14-3.
“Going into college, I had dreams and aspirations of playing (football and baseball),” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to close any of those doors until I knew what I really wanted to do. Had I known which one I wanted to, I would’ve made my life a lot easier.”
After appearing in 14 games during the 2014 baseball season at OU, he entered the football season as Trevor Knight’s backup. During a game against Baylor, Knight suffered a spine injury, forcing Thomas into action in a 48-14 loss. Knight missed several weeks, meaning Thomas started OU’s next game against Texas Tech.
OU had lost three of its last four games in Lubbock entering Thomas’ start. To make matters worse, the 6-3 Sooners were unranked in the AP Poll for the first time since 2009. Add a hostile crowd and winds approaching 15 mph, and it didn’t make conditions ideal for Thomas’ first start. He faltered at first, throwing three interceptions in the first half en route to a 14-7 halftime deficit.
“To say the game was moving fast was definitely an understatement,” Thomas said. “Being the backup, you don’t get as many reps, so the first half for me was definitely shocking.”
In the second half, Thomas rebounded, gaining 103 yards and one touchdown on the ground to help lead OU to a 42-30 win. He started the final two games of the regular season, defeating Kansas and falling to Oklahoma State. Thomas ended the season with 342 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 46 percent of his passes.
After the season, Thomas decided the stress of playing multiple sports wasn’t worth it. He first focused on football, taking the 2015 baseball season off to compete with Knight and Baker Mayfield for the starting quarterback job. He came up short and was relegated to backup status, completing just one pass in three games during the 2015 season.
That winter, he left the football team and rejoined the baseball team before its 2016 season. Thomas started 29 games that spring, hitting six home runs and driving in 27 runs while ranking third on the team with a .299 average.
After the season, Thomas was selected in the 13th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by Los Angeles and began his minor league journey. Since, he’s made his way from fall leagues to lower A-ball, to the top of MiLB, receiving a call-up to the Drillers in 2019.
“Being in Oklahoma definitely felt like I was playing at home,” Thomas said of his 2019 season. “I got buddies that still live there, and they got to come and watch me play a lot more often. The Sooner fans being at every game made it just a great experience. I have nothing but good memories about playing for the Drillers.”
Thomas did enough with Tulsa to receive a spring training invite from Los Angeles in 2020. He played in 12 games, leading the team in home runs and RBIs before MLB postponed the season due to COVID-19. Later, The MiLB season was canceled entirely, putting Thomas’ Triple-A ascension on hold.
Blake Rutherford robbed of a 2-run home run by Cody Thomas pic.twitter.com/MNVsKfojND— Jonnie Nonnie (@NonnieJonnie) February 24, 2020
It wouldn’t be with Los Angeles’ Triple-A Dodgers, though, as he was traded to Oakland in a deal involving former OU teammate Sheldon Neuse on February 12. Thomas’ impact with Oakland’s Triple-A Aviators has been immediate, as he ranks top-three on the team with 20 doubles, 18 home runs, 52 RBIs, a .289 batting average and a .665 slugging percentage this season. Currently, he’s ranked as Oakland’s No. 21 prospect by MLB.com.
“Cody’s a special kid,” Aviators manager Fran Riordan said. “He’s made a huge impact on the team from the moment he’s got here. I think he’s really close to the major leagues.”
Riordan said critical adjustments, like Thomas shortening up his swing, have been vital to his success this season. Due to Oakland’s hands off philosophy, Thomas got the freedom to make his own changes. From moving cities to adapting at a higher level, he’s the closest he’s been to the MLB.
A two-run BOMB in the 9th from Cody Thomas and the Aviators WIN!! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/qSZy7OEMCF— Las Vegas Aviators (@AviatorsLV) July 6, 2021
Now, amid Thomas’ best pro season, OU fans will get to see him once more when Las Vegas travels to Oklahoma City for a six-game series from August 25-31. It will be another homecoming for Thomas, who doesn’t forget the impact OU had on him.
“It was a great college experience for me,” Thomas said. “The people, the fans, the coaches, the teachers, it’s such a first-class place from top to bottom. I have nothing but good things to say (about OU), and I’m sure I’ll make a trip down to Norman when I’m in Oklahoma City just to look at and relive everything all over again.”