Bat bags and other large clothing.
In many ways, they are the most memorable memories of Trayce Thompson’s ephemeral career path.
More than 13 years in professional baseball, the tourist outfielder has been with nine franchises; he played for 19 major and minor league teams; trade, buy or claim six times.
At the end of each cycle period, two things usually happen:
He packs his suitcase to move to a new city, a new clubhouse, a new organization.
And he stuffs the old bat bag into his family’s storage unit, adding to a collection that now feels like a kaleidoscope of discarded basketball relics.
“It’s a little scary,” he said, “seeing all the different colors.”
In fact, the spectrum ranges from Chicago White Sox black to Oakland Athletic green, Arizona Diamondback red to San Diego Padre brown.
Reflecting back on all the recent change, Thompson couldn’t help but sigh.
“Coming up, you always think you’re going to be with one team,” he admitted. “It was a mental joke.”
But then, he noted proudly, there was always more Dodger blue in his collection than anything else.
The club he had, six years ago, is the peak of his career.
And the team that gave, in the last month, a long-awaited opportunity is back in the majors.
“I knew I could go to the big leagues and contribute and rebuild myself and be an impact player,” Thompson said recently, more than a month out from a trade that brought him back to Los Angeles , where it is emerging as a mid-season. surprised with a .301 batting average, four home runs and 17 RBI in 30 games.
“But to do it here, with a lot of guys that I know, a lot of people that I’ve spent a lot of time with, I think the common theme is just special,” he continued. “It’s something I never thought could happen.”
There was a time Thompson thought he would be with the Dodgers for the long haul.
A Southland native who attended Santa Margarita High in Orange County, Thompson was drafted in the second round by the White Sox in 2009, then traded to the Dodgers after a successful MLB debut in 2015.
He immediately felt at home.
Thompson made the opening day roster coming out of spring training in 2016. He quickly developed bonds in his new clubhouse, even moving in with Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Alex Wood.
And during the first half of the following campaign, he thrived as a 25-year-old rookie, posting a .796 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 13 home runs in his first 73 games and, occasionally, batting as high as. third in the lineup.
“He carried us for a month or two,” manager Dave Roberts said.
At the time, Thompson said he felt “I’d be here for a while.”
Instead, his career ended quickly.
He aggravated a back injury in July. An X-ray a few weeks later revealed two broken vertebrae, an injury that ended his season.
His time with the Dodgers was also on the clock.
After bouncing between triple A and the major leagues in 2017, batting just .122 in 27 games, Thompson was designated for assignment at the end of spring training the next year, claimed on waivers by the New York Yankees, then again at the Athletics two days later.
“I didn’t play well,” Thompson said of his first Dodgers stint. “That’s what it’s all about.”
His first few years weren’t much better: a self-admitted “disaster” in 2018, when he hit just .117 in 51 games with the A’s and White Sox; a mediocre 2019 season with Cleveland’s triple-A affiliate; and a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign spent entirely on the Diamondbacks’ alternate training ground.
“I only lived out of one big bag,” he said with a self-deprecating smile. “Learned to be efficient with my packing.”
Despite the difficulties, he was not thinking of retirement.
“Coming up, you always think you’re going to be with one team. It’s a mental rash.”
— Trayce Thompson, Dodgers outfielder
“I always knew I could,” he said, “so I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”
But he also knew his career was on the line.
“I had to dig deep,” he said. “I didn’t want to finish my career thinking I didn’t leave it all there.”
Trayce wasn’t the only member of the Thompson family to be in conflict at the time.
While working in the minors trying to rediscover his game, his older brother Klay Thompson, the All-Star guard of the Golden State Warriors, was benched with a series of serious injuries, missing for the entire 2019-20 season. with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and each of 2020-21 with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Trayce said Klay came to him for advice on how he dealt with the disappointment of the back injury and how he dealt with the mental struggles of long-term rehabilitation.
However, their talks also affected Trayce.
“Seeing her mental strength to go through all that and see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s like what I had to go through,” Trayce said. “Not necessarily because of injury, but because of performance and everything that happened in my career.
“I definitely looked to him as an inspiration. He came back from two major injuries when many people counted him out and didn’t know who or whoever he was. So I had no excuse but to do everything I can to come back [to the majors] and restore myself.”
For Trayce, that meant taking a “deep dive” into his declining performance, trying to pinpoint where he had gone astray.
He spent long hours in front of a computer, watching and replaying videos of his swing, and others around the sport that he admired. He also had a lot of “self-talk” trying to replenish his psyche with “confidence and conviction.”
Again, Klay provided some family motivation.
“My brother is a good example of that, a guy who never shies away from a moment, doesn’t shy away from a certain shot,” Trayce said. “He’s a man I learn from.”
As Klay returned to the court last fall, going on to win a fourth NBA title with the Warriors, Trayce eventually got back to the majors for the first time in three years, earning a September call-up. from the Chicago Cubs last season after hitting. 21 home runs during the triple-A season.
“Mentally, I had to reevaluate myself … and kind of find myself again,” Thompson said. “I feel like the last few years have been a journey towards that, starting back in ’19 really.”
Two days before he was set to celebrate Klay’s triumphant return to the Warriors’ championship parade last month, Mychal Thompson sat in a Bay Area hotel room and witnessed his other son’s latest breakthrough in real time.
After signing with the Padres this spring and being released after just six MLB games, Trayce was back in the minors, pitching for the Detroit Tigers’ triple-A affiliate in his latest attempt to revive his career .
“It felt like he was back home. It was a dream for him to put on the Dodger uniform again.”
— Mychal Thompson, father of Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson
During Father’s Day afternoon on June 19, in a game Mychal was watching live on his computer from his hotel room, Trayce hit a sixth inning single that raised his season batting average to .299.
Mychal was happy. Then, he was confused.
In the seventh inning, Trayce was unexpectedly pulled from the game.
oh no Mychal thought. Was Trayce hurt?
Shortly after, however, Mychal’s phone rang. Trayce was on the other end of the line.
“Hey, Dad,” Trayce said. “I just traded.”
“The Dodgers,” his son said excitedly.
Mychal recognized the importance immediately, knowing his son’s feelings for the organization – the blue things he had saved in their storage unit for all those years.
“Every hair on my body stood on end,” the former Lakes center said recently. “It felt like he was back home. It was a dream for him to put on the Dodger uniform again.”
Mychal added: “It was an answer to my prayers.”
Tracye, meanwhile, helped answer some of the Dodgers’ midseason problems.
When they suffered several injuries in the outfield, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team immediately focused on the right-handed slugger.
“He made a strong impact when he was here,” Friedman said. “He was someone we watched closely and always rooted for.”
With his longest hitting streak since 2018, Trayce has flashed his trademark power — it’s a small sample, but his team-best .542 slugging percentage — and solid outfield defense in along with a new found consistency by the team. plate.
“With Trayce being comfortable, knowing his surroundings, I think that gave him the best opportunity to play from the start,” Roberts said. “He’s a man you can’t bet against.”
Trayce’s role for the rest of the season remains unclear.
Chris Taylor is nearing his return from a broken leg. The Dodgers were reportedly in the market for another bat before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Still, for Trayce, recent trips to the storage unit weren’t new; he has no signs of having to pack his suitcase again anytime soon.
For now, being back in the majors — and with the Dodgers, in particular — is a satisfying first step.
“Maybe a lot of teams didn’t see that from me, which is fine,” he said. “But I always knew I could be here.”