By John Patton/Correspondent
One of the biggest loves of Sterlin Thompson’s young life has always been baseball. It has provided him with fun, self-discipline and camaraderie.
And this week, look for it to give Thompson something more.
A senior for North Marion after spending his first three years of high school at Forest, Thompson signed a national letter of intent with national powerhouse Florida on Feb. 27. The infielder/outfielder said that fulfilled a dream.
“Playing there and in the SEC – I’ve always wanted to do that,” Thompson said. “Plus, they play powerhouse baseball, have great coaching and Gainesville is close to my family. There is a lot to be excited about.”
But there is another dream that might become Thompson’s reality midweek when he is expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft.
Rated the 57th overall prospect available by ESPN and 176th by MLB.com, Thompson could slide into Wednesday night’s first round (there are scheduled to be 37 selections counting the Competitive Balance picks, beginning at 7 p.m. on ESPN and MLB) if an organization likes him enough. But, most likely, he is expected to be chosen sometime during Rounds 2-5 on Thursday starting at 5 p.m. on ESPN and MLB.
A childhood Rockies fan whose devotion flipped to the Dodgers once he and his family moved away from Colorado, Thompson said approximately 27 teams have been in touch during the pre-Draft process with some reaching out more than others.
“It’s really exciting,” said Thompson, who accumulated a .357 batting average with 70 hits, 58 runs, 35 RBI and 12 doubles in 64 prep games entering 2020’s pandemic-shortened season. “I’ve been thinking about this my entire life.”
No matter how one looks at it, Thompson has a pair of enviable future paths.
Does he take the offer that will come with a high signing bonus to move on and play professionally? Or does he go to UF, which closed the most recent season No. 1 (and is ranked first next year in Baseball America’s pre-Draft poll for the 2021 season), and join fellow Marion County prep alums Kirby and Hunter McMullen (Forest), Jud Fabian (Trinity Catholic) and Jay Fraziars (Dunnellon) on next year’s Gators?
Thompson has experienced guidance on that front. His cousin, Dash Winningham, was an eighth-round pick of the New York Mets in 2014 after a stellar career at Trinity Catholic and has been leading baseball workouts for Thompson during the pandemic (personal trainer Eric Martinez has handled strength and conditioning).
“Dash has been working on me with my hitting and throwing,” said Thompson, who spent his high school summers playing for the Gatorball travel team. “And I know I can go to him for advice (about the Draft and post-Draft processes).”
And Thompson said he is looking forward to figuring out what is next for him.
“Either way, a dream of mine is going to come true,” Thompson said. “I can’t wait to see what happens June 10th and 11th.”