Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Trace Thompson (25) during the third inning of a baseball game on Monday, June 27, 2022 in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Back in the majors, and back in Dodger Blue, Trayce Thompson is where he belongs

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Trace Thompson (25) during the third inning of a baseball game on Monday, June 27, 2022 in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Trace Thompson experienced the pinnacle of his career with the Dodgers six years ago. After several blows, Thompson is back in LA and making the most of his return to the bigs. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press)

Bat bag and an extra large suitcase.

In many ways, they have been the defining memento of Trace Thompson’s ephemeral career path.

For more than 13 years in professional baseball, the Travelman outfielder has been with nine franchises; played for 19 major and minor league teams; Has been traded, bought or claimed six times.

At the end of each rotating term, usually two things happen:

He packs his suitcase to move to a new city, a new clubhouse, a new outfit.

And he keeps bags of old bats in his family’s storage unit, adding to a collection that now feels like a kaleidoscope of discarded baseball remains.

“It’s a little hard,” he said, “to see all the different colors.”

Indeed, the spectrum ranges from Chicago White Sox Black to Oakland Athletic Green, Arizona Diamondbacks Red to San Diego Padre Brown.

Considering all the recent changes, Thompson just couldn’t sigh.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Trace Thompson, right, hits a solo home run in front of Washington Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz

Trace Thompson is batting 295 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 29 games during his current stint with the Dodgers. (Mark J. Terrill / The Associated Press)

“Coming up, you always think you’re going to be with a team,” he admitted. “It’s a mental grind.”

But then, he said proudly, his collection has always featured more Dodger blue than anything else.

This is the club with which, six years ago, he experienced the pinnacle of his career.

And the team that has given him a long-awaited opportunity in the majors over the past month.

Thompson said recently, “I knew I could get into the big leagues and contribute and reinvent myself and be an impact player, losing him for over a month now.” Brought back to Angeles, where he is emerging as a midseason surprise with a .301 batting average, four home runs and 17 RBIs in 30 games.

“But to do it here, with a lot of people I know, with a lot of people I’ve spent a lot of time with, I think the general theme is just special,” he continued. “It’s something I never thought could happen.”

There was a time when 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 by the White Sox in the second round in 2009, then traded to the Dodgers in 2015 after a successful MLB debut.

He immediately felt at home.

Thompson made the day’s roster before spring training in 2016. He developed quick bonds in his new clubhouse, even moving in with Jock Pedersen, Corey Seeger and Alex Wood.

And during the first half of the ensuing campaign, he flourished as a 25-year-old rookie, posting a .796 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 13 home runs in his first 73 games, occasionally batting high. Third in the lineup.

“That took a month or two for us,” manager Dave Roberts recalled.

At the time, Thompson said that he “looked like I was going to be here for a while.”

Dodgers' Trace Thompson arrives for a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on March 19, 2016

Dodgers Trace Thompson arrives for a Spring Training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on March 19, 2016 in Phoenix. (Jee Si Hong / The Associated Press)

Instead, his career quickly settled.

In July, he suffered a back injury. A few weeks later an X-ray revealed two fractured vertebrae, an injury that ended his season.

His time with the Dodgers was also on the clock.

After bouncing between the Triple A and the big leagues in 2017, batting just .122 in 27 games, Thompson was named for assignment by the team at the end of spring training the following year, claiming a waiver by the New York Yankees, Athletics again two days later.

“I didn’t play well,” Thompson said of his first Dodgers stint. “That’s what it comes down to.”

His next few years weren’t much better: a self-admitted “disaster” in 2018 when he batted just .117 in 51 games with the A’s and the White Sox; an average 2019 season with Cleveland’s Triple A Affiliate; And a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign was spent entirely at the Diamondbacks’ alternate training site.

“I just lived out of a big suitcase,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh. “Learned to be efficient with my packing.”

Despite the setbacks, he did not think about retirement.

“I always knew I was capable,” he said, “so I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”

But he also knew that his career was on the verge.

“I had to dig deeper,” he said. “I didn’t want to end my career thinking I didn’t leave it all there.”

Tracy was not the only member of the Thompson family facing adversity at the time.

As he pushed hard in the minors, trying to rediscover his game, his older brother Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors All-Star guard, was tied on the bench with a string of serious injuries. All of the -20 seasons were missing. All of 2020-21 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and with a torn Achilles tendon.

Tracy said Kell had come to her for advice on how she dealt with the disappointment of her back injury and how she coped with the mental struggles of long-term rehab.

However, their conversation was impressive for Trace as well.

Tracy said, “Watching her mental strength to go through all that and see the light at the end of the tunnel, this is like what I’ve had to go through.” “Not necessarily because of injury, but just because of performance and everything that has happened in my career.

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson signs autographs for fans while watching the Dodgers play San Francisco Giants

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson signs autographs for fans as they watch the Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on July 24. (Mark J. Terrill / The Associated Press)

“I definitely looked up to him as an inspiration. He came back from two major injuries when a lot of people counted on him and didn’t know who he would be or who he would be. So I have everything possible to get back.” had no excuse but to try [to the majors] and reestablish yourself. ,

For Tracy, this meant he was taking a “deep dive” on his falling performance, trying to pinpoint where he had strayed.

He spent long hours in front of a computer, watching and replaying videos of his swing and watching and replaying other people around the game. He also did several “self-talks” while trying to refill his psyche with “confidence and conviction”.

Again, Kel provided some family inspiration.

“My brother is a good example of this, a boy who never shy away from a moment, never shy away from a sure shot,” Tracy said. “He’s a boy I learn from.”

As Kel returned to the court for the last time with the Warriors to win a fourth NBA title, Trace eventually returned 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 find myself again,” Thompson said. “I think the last few years, really starting back in ’19, have been a journey towards that.”

Two days before getting ready to celebrate Kel’s triumphant return at the Warriors Championship Parade last month, Mychal Thompson sat in a Bay Area hotel room and watched his second son’s latest turn in real time.

After signing with the Padres this spring and being released after only six MLB games, Treacy was back in the minors, excelling for the Detroit Tigers’ triple-A ally in his latest bid to revive his career. .

During the afternoon of Father’s Day on June 19, in a game while Mychal was watching live on his computer from his hotel room, Tracy hit a sixth-inning single that raised his season batting average to .299.

Mychal was happy. Then, he got confused.

In the seventh inning, Tracy was unexpectedly dropped from the game.

Oh no, Mychal thought. Was Tracy hurt?

However, after a while, Mychal’s phone rang. The trace was at the other end of the line.

“Hey, Dad,” said Tracy. “I just traded.”

where?

“The Dodgers,” said his son excitedly.

Dodgers' Trace Thompson points to the stand after hitting a three-run home run

Dodgers’ Treyce Thompson points to the stands after hitting a three-run home run against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on July 4. (Kyusung Gong / The Associated Press)

Maichal immediately recognized the importance, knowing full well that his son had feelings with the organization—for all those years he had kept blue keepsakes in his storage unit.

“Every hair on my body stood out,” the East Lake Center recalled recently. “It felt like he was back home. It was his dream to put on the Dodger uniform again.”

Mychal continued: “It was the answer to my prayers.”

Meanwhile, Tracy has helped answer some of the Dodgers’ midseason problems.

When he suffered some injuries in the outfield, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said that the team immediately targeted the right-handed slugger.

“He made a strong impression when he was here,” Friedman said. “He was the one we looked closely at and implied forever.”

And in what has become his longest big-league stint since 2018, Tracy has shone his trademark prowess—that’s a small sample size, but his .542 slugging percentage is the best on the team—and with newfound consistency. Coupled strong outfield defense. plate.

“Knowing her surroundings, from the comfort of Trace, I think she got the best opportunity to perform from the get-go,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy you can’t bet against.”

Trace’s role for the rest of the season is unclear.

Chris Taylor is on the verge of a comeback from a fractured leg. The Dodgers have reportedly been in the market for another bat reaching the trade deadline on Tuesday.

Still, for Trace, there haven’t been any new trips to the storage unit recently; There’s no indication he’ll need to repack his suitcase anytime soon.

For now, only getting back to the big companies — and with the Dodgers, in particular — has been a great first step.

“Many teams probably didn’t see that in me, which is fine,” he said. “But I always knew I was going to be able to be here.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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