A promising member of the Oakland Athletics’ farm team has died unexpectedly in Arizona.
Casey Thomas was only 24, and he was considered an up-and-coming prospect for the A’s baseball team.
The team announced Thomas’ death on May 2 but hasn’t released any information about the cause of death, other than to say the death was not expected and occurred in Phoenix. (This post will be updated as more information is learned about Thomas’ cause of death.) The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office, which encompasses Phoenix, told Heavy on May 2 that the cause of death is still “pending,” and no other information is available yet on Thomas’ death, including when and where it occurred.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Athletics’ Team Said It Was ‘Devastated’ by the Death
The baseball team called Thomas’ death a tragedy.
In a statement, the A’s said: “We were devastated to hear of this tragedy within the A’s family. Our hearts go out to Tom and his family on their loss; Casey was a wonderful young man and teammate, and will be missed by all in the A’s organization.”
In a Tweet posted by the baseball team, Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations, also called Thomas a “wonderful young man and teammate” and said he would be missed “by all in the A’s organization.”
Justin Perales, a college teammate of Thomas’, told Heavy: “Casey was one of a kind. He was unique in the way he played the game and the way he lived life. Very laid back guy had the West coast attitude. Reminded me more of a skateboarder then a baseball player. If you saw him you’d think he was a skater guy but he was one of the best short stops I had ever played with. Softest hands in the southland conference. He always had a smile on his face and was always joking around, It would frustrate you sometimes because he was so laid back and not very serious but that’s Casey that’s what made everyone love him.”
Thomas’ most recent posts on Facebook were from March 16, when he changed his cover photo to a picture of a lake, and his profile picture to a photo of himself wearing a baseball uniform. Several years ago, he posted, “You laugh because you think I’m different, I laugh because you guys are all the same.” He also wrote things on Facebook like, “Only God Can Judge” and “Dont take life too seriously, You cant make it out alive.” Those posts were from years ago, though. There wasn’t much posted recently on his page that is public.
2. Thomas Was From a Baseball Family
Casey Thomas was not the first member of his family involved in Major League Baseball. He was following in the footsteps of his father.
“The 24-year-old Kansas City native was the son of A’s pro scout Tom Thomas,” the team said in its statement.
According to Sports Illustrated, the A’s made Casey Thomas “a 34th-round pick in last year’s draft.”
Thomas said on Facebook that he lived in Ahwatukee, Arizona. A friend wrote on Facebook, “So many memories with you man… Feels like yesterday I was walking off that field in Sugarland, TX giving you a hug and wishing you the best of luck. Amazing young man and ballplayer taken way too young. Rest In Peace brotha, you will be missed.”
Another friend wrote, “I can’t believe it, Gone way too soon. Im gonna miss you buddy ? Keep on rippin lips for me upstairs.”
A GoFundMe site was created in Casey’s name. It reads, “Casey Thomas, a 24-year old, vibrant baseball player, beloved son, family member, caring brother, friend, and teammate passed away suddenly on May 1st 2017 in Phoenix AZ. Casey played baseball in the Minor Leagues for the Oakland A’s, and was loved beyond words by family, friends, players, coaches and all who knew him. In memory of Casey, donations will be used to fund his Memorial and specific Athletic Scholarships that were near and dear to Casey and his family.”
3. Thomas Was in Arizona for Extended Spring Training
It’s not clear how Casey died, but the team did confirm that his death occurred in Phoenix, Arizona, and said he was “currently in extended spring training.”
Thomas’ death was the second in two years of an A’s minor leaguer; “Triple-A pitcher Sean Murphy died April 25, 2016, from a heart muscle disease,” The Associated Press reported.
According to SFGate, in another tragedy, “minor-league video coordinator Mark Smith died suddenly in December.”
4. Thomas Played in 37 Games in 2016 for the A’s Farm Team
Thomas appeared in 37 games for the A’s “rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League” in 2016, the team said. He was 5 foot 10 inches tall and 160 pounds, according to his MLB bio.
He hit .258 with 18 RBI in those 37 games, according to the A’s statement.
5. Thomas Went to College in Phoenix & Texas
Prior to signing with the A’s, Thomas “played collegiately for GateWay Community College in Phoenix before transferring to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi,” the team’s statement said.
According to The Sporting News, Thomas was from Phoenix, and was “Oakland’s 34th-round draft pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He led the Islanders with a .322 average last year as a senior.”
A friend from that era wrote on Facebook: “Casey Thomas we are all gonna miss ya. It was a fun year at corpus and good one. It was great playing with ya. R.I.P.”
Thomas was a graduate of Desert Vista High School. His former coach at the school told AZCentral that he was devastated by the death, which he called “terrible.”
Stan Luketich, the former coach, told AZCentral that Thomas “understood baseball better than most high school kids do. He understood the game well. We just talked a couple of months ago. When he went to college, he turned some things around. He really became a good student and continued to play.”