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Thames Makes Marc on Yanks (New York Daily News) ... to follow those words ever since and is especially cognizant of them after Clark died of a brain tumor last year.... - Mar 24 6:53 AM ET


Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)



Website: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/krnewyork/20020324/lo/thames_makes_marc_on_yanks_1.html

Posted on: 03/24/2002

Thames Makes Marc on Yanks

By ANTHONY McCARRON

Marcus Thames' junior college baseball coach, Jamie Clark, always told him to play hard enough every day that he could make an impact — any kind of impact — on how his team did.

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Thames, one of the Yankees' best outfield prospects, has tried to follow those words ever since and is especially cognizant of them after Clark died of a brain tumor last year. Thames keeps Clark's name written on the inside of his hat.

Now Clark's attitude could have helped placed Thames in position to make a leap from Double-A to the majors.

Thames, 25, is a candidate to make the Yankees' Opening Day roster as a spare outfielder because of Rondell White's strained rib cage. If White is put on the DL to start the season, Thames could be in pinstripes when the Yanks start the season in Baltimore April 1.

And hustle is what set up the possibility. The Yankees reassigned Thames to the minor-league camp on March 10, but Joe Torre remembered how Thames threw himself into the stands to catch a foul ball in a game against the Tigers March 5.

When Bernie Williams developed a left hamstring strain two weeks later and the Yankees needed someone to play the outfield, Torre asked that Thames come back. In four games since, Thames is 4-for-11 (.364) with two homers. He has three homers this spring.

"I just wanted to see if I could open some eyes," Thames said. "I haven't talked to anybody about it. My name's in the lineup, I play. I've always been like that."

Thames, Juan Rivera, F.P. Santangelo and Gerald Williams are all possibilities for an extra outfield spot, but Rivera is limited because he can't play center field.

Williams has played poorly but is guaranteed $2 million this season and the Yankees seem committed to keeping him on the roster after finding no takers for him on the trade market. That leaves one spot if White is put on the DL and the Yanks apparently will not make a deal to fill that spot.

Thames reached prospect status last season by raising his batting average 80 points to .321 at Double-A Norwich. He hit 31 homers and had 97 RBI.

"I know it was Double-A, but 30 homers is 30 homers," Torre said.

Thames has also caught George Steinbrenner's eye. "Wow, I think we'll see more of him," Steinbrenner said earlier in the week. Steinbrenner was cooing over Thames in Dunedin Friday after Thames homered.

Other teams constantly are asking the Yankees about Thames. The Padres wanted him in last summer's Sterling Hitchcock trade, but the Yanks refused.

Through it all, Thames remains mellow. He refuses to get too excited about his chances, saying, "You're over here, you want to see if you can. It would be a dream come true. If you play hard, something good's going to happen."

He still calls his mother, Veterine, every day before games. She's delighted about his recent homers, but he tries to temper her excitement.

Thames, from Louisville, Ky., joined the National Guard when he was 18 to earn money to help his family. His mother is wheelchair-bound because of an accident, but still raised five kids herself.

Thames sent himself to junior college to play baseball and the Yankees drafted him in the 30th round in 1996, after his second year. It was only his third season of organized baseball.

"He has all the ingredients that you want to see in a player," said Yanks' first-base coach Lee Mazzilli, who managed Thames at two levels in the minors. "He came up very raw and hadn't played a lot of baseball, but he's come a long way and really wants to learn."

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