Lane Thomas

April 19, 2019: Lane Thomas hits two-run blast in his first major-league at-bat

As the son of a professional drag racer, Lane Thomas knows the value of a fast start. So perhaps it was no surprise that he homered in his first major-league at-bat.

Lane’s father, Mike, was a professional drag racer in the National Hot Rod Association, and Lane spent his early summers traveling around the country, watching his father race.[1] For a while, he thought he might make his career at the track as well. Then he discovered baseball.

“I kind of figured out that was going to be a little bit too much adrenaline for me,” Thomas said. “Those guys are running some crazy times. They are going a quarter mile in like six seconds at 200-something miles per hour. I think I’m going to stick to having something fly at me.”[2]

A Knoxville native, Thomas committed to the University of Tennessee as a high school sophomore before batting .410 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs his senior season. His plans to play for the Volunteers, however, changed when the Blue Jays drafted him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.[3]

“He’s a sure-fire pro prospect, no question,” Bearden assistant coach Jack Tate said. “He has all the tools.”[4]

Thomas was assigned to Toronto’s High-A affiliate in Dunedin of the Florida State League to start the 2017 season. There, he hit .252 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 73 games before he was traded to the Cardinals for international signing bonus cap space.

Injuries limited Thomas to just nine games for the Cardinals’ Palm Beach affiliate that season, but in 2018 St. Louis assigned him to Double-A Springfield to open the season. In 100 games, he hit .260/.337/.487 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He played his final 32 games with Triple-A Memphis, batting .275 with six homers and 21 RBIs. It was the breakout season Thomas needed.

That November, the Cardinals added Thomas to the 40-man roster. After Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill both went down with injuries, the Cardinals called up Thomas on April 17, 2019. He played two innings of the Cardinals’ 6-3 win over the Brewers but didn’t get to take an at-bat as the game ended with him standing in the on-deck circle.

Two days later, he wasn’t about to miss his opportunity.

The Mets scored two first-inning runs off Adam Wainwright as Wilson Ramos hit an RBI single and J.D. Davis added an RBI double. In the second, after Juan Lagares led off with a single, shortstop Paul DeJong committed a two-out error and Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single to right field.

In the fourth inning, Wainwright walked Pete Alonso and allowed a double to Cano before manager Mike Schildt called upon Giovanny Gallegos out of the bullpen. Gallegos struck out Michael Conforto, but Alonso scored on an RBI groundout by Ramos, making the score 4-0.

Jose Martinez got the Cardinals on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, but Alonso hit a solo home run of his own in the sixth off Ryan Helsley.

In the bottom of the sixth, Dexter Fowler hit a one-out double. After Seth Lugo struck out Kolten Wong, Schildt called upon Thomas to take his first major-league at-bat. Lugo challenged him with an outside slider on the first pitch, then tried the same pitch again. Thomas proved a fast learner, hitting the second pitch off the top of the right-field wall before it bounced back down to Conforto, the Mets’ right fielder.

“It was pretty surreal,” Thomas said. “It’s the stuff you dream about when I was a kid.”[5]

Initially, the play appeared to be a triple before the umpires viewed the replay and ruled that the ball had indeed hit the top of the wall and struck a sign behind the outfield wall before bouncing back into play.

“My heart was beating a little quick so I don’t even remember what I was thinking,” Thomas said.[6]

The blast made him just the 10th Cardinal in history to homer in his first major-league at-bat, joining Eddie Morgan (1936), Wally Moon (1954), Keith McDonald (2000), Chris Richard (2000), Gene Stechschulte (2001), Hector Luna (2004), Wainwright (2006), Mark Worrell (2008), and DeJong (2017).

After Thomas returned to the dugout, his teammates convinced him to give the Busch Stadium fans a curtain call.

“That was the coolest part – looking up and seeing everyone cheer,” Thomas said. “It was awesome. I don’t think it could have gone any better.”[7]

It also cut the Mets’ lead to 5-3. Yadier Molina scored in the eighth on a ground ball by Fowler to make the score 5-4, but in the ninth inning, New York’s Edwin Diaz retired Molina with runners on first and third to earn his seventh save of the season.

Thomas stayed on the shuttle between Memphis and St. Louis throughout the season, batting .316 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 44 plate appearances.

“I saw him a lot in my rehab starts last season,” said Wainwright, who was limited to just eight starts in 2018 due to an elbow injury. “He was one of the four guys I came back and reported that ‘these guys are big-league players.’ I think we’re going to see a lot of him.”[8]

In the COVID-shortened 2020, however, Lane was hit with the disease, then hit just .111 in 40 plate appearances. He appeared in just 32 games for the Cardinals in 2021 before he was traded to the Nationals for Jon Lester.

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[1] Drew Hill, “Outfielder Lane Thomas’ peculiar journey from NHRA to baseball,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 23, 2018.

[2] Drew Hill, “Outfielder Lane Thomas’ peculiar journey from NHRA to baseball,” Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 23, 2018.

[3] “Bearden’s Thomas named 1st Team HS baseball All-American,” USA Today, June 25, 2014,

[4] Mike Blackerby, “Bearden’s Lane Thomas commits to play at Tennessee,” Knoxville News Sentinel, August 25, 2012.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals drop one,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2019.

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