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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami/AP) — The Miami Hurricanes baseball team is one of the best in the nation.
David Thompson technically tied for last place among all Division I players last season in home runs, considering he had none.
This season, no one has hit more.
He’s one of many reasons why Miami is carrying the No. 5 national seed into the NCAA Tournament that starts this weekend, and why the Hurricanes are looking very much like a real contender for a national championship. Thompson — whose career was in some jeopardy because of health issues not long ago — is tied for the national lead with 19 homers, leads Division I with 80 RBIs and is a sure-fire early pick in next month’s Major League Baseball draft.
“I know I’m blessed to play this game,” Thompson said. “It’s fun to be out here. I’ve always had success but you can always improve. There’s a lot of guys who have done a lot better than me and I’m just trying to get better every day.”
It shows. Thompson’s numbers are off the charts this season, compared to his first two years with the Hurricanes.
Miami’s third baseman — he can also play first — batted .283 with six home runs and 61 RBIs in 82 games as a freshman and sophomore. So far as a junior, he’s batting .335, has a .683 slugging percentage and 37 extra-base hits. His 80 RBIs already represents the fifth-best season in Miami history, ahead of names like former NL MVP Ryan Braun and Pat Burrell.
Despite his gaudy numbers, Thompson wasn’t selected as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s player of the year.
“Well, in all honesty, he’s had a great year and I think he should have been the player of the year of the conference,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “I don’t know whether I should say that or not, because he’s had a great year. I told him that one-on-one and I believe that. The guy leads the nation in RBIs.”
If Thompson was upset by the ACC snub, he kept it quiet. It’s not his nature to complain. It’s not his nature to anything that draws negative attention whatsoever, really.
Teammates rave about the manner in which he carries himself on the field and off. He’s a devout Christian, so proud of his faith that the walk-up song he chose to use during home at-bats this season was a spiritual ballad that his father wrote for him. (“It’s not a song that gets you too pumped, but it makes my dad happy and it gives me a calming peace,” Thompson said.) He doesn’t curse, either.
That being said, don’t mistake him for lacking intensity either.
Thompson is his own toughest critic. He slams bats and helmets at times, though immediately gets disappointed with himself when those outbursts happen. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened often this season, not with Thompson putting up numbers like these. Consider: Teammate Jacob Heyward had a six-RBI game against Georgia Tech earlier this month, and it wasn’t even close to the best game a Miami batter had in that series.
That’s because the previous night, Thompson went deep three times and drove in nine runs.
“We’re having so much fun this year,” Thompson said. “We’re having so much more fun this year than in my first two years here.”
The reason for that is simple: He’s healthy, for the first time since his junior year of high school.
The former quarterback — he came to Miami as a two-sport athlete, but is now solely a baseball player — has been snakebitten on the health front, between shoulder problems that necessitated surgeries and a condition last year called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which also required hospitalization and surgery. And in December, he needed surgery on his left elbow to remove cartilage so he could straighten it again.
But what he went through last season with the blood clot was downright scary, to the point where he broke down in tears.
“Of course there were times when I would say why,” Thompson said. “It didn’t feel like it was fair. But my parents, my family, my girlfriend, the guys on the team, the coaches, they were all behind me and reminded me God was in control and I would be stronger in the long run.”
They were right.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)