For my News Reporting class at Youngstown State University, we had an assignment in which we had to do a short writing. One of the topics we could choose to write about was “famous YSU alumni” which I took the liberty of doing. Now a lot of people associate YSU with actor Ed O’Neill and former football player Ron Jaworski, which is fine since they are both alumni, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that the New York Yankees have one of their own, lefty reliever Justin Thomas. Thomas was among the September call-ups from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Part of this assignment was to interview said person, so I did via telephone. Talking to Justin was awesome and gave me more insight into how aside from being major league stars, guys like him are just everyday people like you and me. Here’s how my interview with Justin went:
- Q: When did you decide to become a pitcher?
- Justin: Growing up I pitched a little bit, but I mainly played first base from little league to high school. I threw hard and also since I am left-handed, colleges would recruit me solely as a pitcher even though I liked to hit and play first base. I guess you could say I was a bit forced into it.
- Q: Who were your biggest influences growing up?
- Justin: My dad. When I played in Little League, my dad and uncle were both coaches. They kept the team very structured. My dad taught me to be on time, in shape and to push myself to expect better results. What my dad taught me was very important to me and still is in my career.
- Q: Why did you decide to go to YSU instead of a big name college?
- Justin: I really wasn’t recruited by many other colleges. However, I was recruited by Michigan St., Eastern Michigan and Cincinnati. My best friend went to YSU and was in their baseball program, so whenever I went to visit him, I eventually ended up liking their program and soon went there.
- Q: What is it like pitching in the MLB?
- Justin: Well, I just try to be prepared and ready to go everyday even if I don’t get the opportunity to pitch. I just try to make the best out of my opportunities.
- Q: Were the Seattle Mariners thought to be a long term team?
- Justin: Yeah, at the time I thought so with being drafted by them. I assumed I would be with them, but I didn’t know any better. I was released after a year and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, then I went to the Boston Red Sox for half of this year and now here I am in New York. I probably will end up being somewhere else next year, but we’ll see.
- Q: How do you feel being a part of the Yankees?
- Justin: It’s pretty cool. Seeing Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and others and just interacting with them is great. You know, being in first, it just creates a positive atmosphere. I learn a lot from the guys in the ball club.
- Q: Do you have any friends in the MLB?
- Justin: Yeah, Steve Pearce is a good friend. Steve and I played together in Pittsburgh, then in Triple-A for the Yankees and now here we are again. Some of the friends I have are from my time in Pittsburgh and playing in Triple-A. I would say that most people though are just close acquaintances and you’ll see them on the other team and just go “Hey, what’s up?” or something like that. However most of the people I got to know actually don’t play anymore or they’re still in Triple-A.
- Q: Do you have rituals before a game?
- Justin: Not really. I have a pre-game routine though. After batting practice, I’ll usually get something to eat, take a shower and just put on my headphones until game time.
- Q: In your opinion, who’s the funniest guy on the Yankees?
- Justin: I’d probably say Joba Chamberlain. He’s always cracking jokes in the bullpen and usually tries to lighten the mood.
- Q: Last question Justin. Would you ever consider being a coach at YSU someday?
- Justin: Well, it depends on where I am in my career. If I got the opportunity, I wouldn’t let it pass by, but it just depends. With my wife and daughter it becomes a little tough, but if I would never rule it out if the opportunity were to arise.
I would like to say thank you again to Justin for helping me conduct this interview.