He never did get a hit.
When Red Sox draft pick and Washington Huskies football signee Shaq Thompson first suited up for the Boston's Gulf Coast League team, everyone knew that he would struggle to compete at an adequate level right off the bat. After all, Thompson had only returned to playing regularly his senior year after a pair of seasons lost to a focus on developing speed on the track.
Still, the Red Sox decided to persist with playing Thompson every day, and the results were even worse than anyone could have imagined. In the end, Thompson completed what is almost certainly the single worst start to a minor league career ever. In 39 at-bats, Thompson was 0-for-39, good for a batting average of 0.00. More stunningly, he struck out 37 times. In an entire, 13-game rookie league short season stint, Thompson put the ball into play just two times.
"He has excellent makeup. It's through the roof. He knew that it wouldn't be easy and would be a struggle but he was willing to take the risk," Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye told Boston radio network WEEI. "We did not have expectations -- I think it's unfair to put those on any kid in his first year of pro ball.
"We discussed the very real possibility that he would struggle and decided to let him go in and try to get better," he continued. "He needs to see live pitching -- if he goes 0-for-5 with five punchouts, who cares? There have been a lot of really bad pro debuts."
It's almost unthinkable that an athlete with Thompson's stunning potential could struggle so mightily at any level, even if his level of experience wasn't up to snuff. Yet struggle Thompson did, time after time. Earlier in July, Prep Rally helped alert the world to the fact that Thompson was 0-for-26 with 25 strikeouts. It didn't get any better after that. Considering the fact that one statistical analyst named Bill Bergen, a catcher between 1901-11 with a .170 career batting average, the worst baseball player ever (minimum 1000 at-bats), Thompson is well on his way to setting new, nearly unbreakable marks for futility.
Yet, as the Seattle Times and WEEI note, Thompson's struggling summer at the plate wasn't entirely a failure. Rather, the teen -- who will almost certainly start in the Washington secondary from the first day he steps on campus -- actually became a popular fixture on his Gulf Coast League squad, with congratulatory high fives coming after Thompson's final at-bat of the season, a fly out.
Normally that wouldn't be anything to celebrate, even when an athlete is competing to justify his $45,000 signing bonus and some $100,000 in total potential earnings over a four-year developmental contract that allows him to continue playing football.
For Thompson it was, providing a fitting coda to a summer on the diamond he'll now quickly put in his rearview mirror as he prepares for a sport in which he couldn't possibly struggle as much as he has with baseball.