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Bad ‘break’ for Eagles’ Thomas turns into blessing 

By GARY JOHNSON ~ Sports Writer
Posted 5/12/23

If the ordinary struggles of being a high school student athlete are not enough of a challenge from time-to-time, throw in a season-ending hand injury late in your senior year, just before the …

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Bad ‘break’ for Eagles’ Thomas turns into blessing 


If the ordinary struggles of being a high school student athlete are not enough of a challenge from time-to-time, throw in a season-ending hand injury late in your senior year, just before the postseason on a team that’s having its best season in years. 
Such is the case for Shelbyville Central’s Caden Thomas. 
Thomas suffered a hand injury while batting in a game a few weeks ago and even though his hand is broken, his spirit is not. 
He continues to support his team at practice and in the dugout with a positive attitude and will to do anything within his power to help his brothers on the field to be successful. 
That at-bat is an event he will never forget. 
“I was up to bat with runners on first and third. We were down by one run and Coach (Chase) Jones gave me the sign to bunt to bring the tying run in. My first attempt to bunt was a ball.  I got into the box again with the same sign to bunt in the runner and as the pitcher was getting ready to throw, I got my feet and hands ready to get the bunt down. As he released the ball, I knew that it was inside, but I was still going to make the attempt to get it down to bring in the run. As the ball got closer, I tried to pull my hands inside to push the ball down the line, but instead of the ball finding my barrel of the bat, it found my hand. The ball went down the line and it was still a live ball, so I ran as soon as it hit me, but I knew something had happened to my hand,” Thomas said. “The umpire ended up calling the bunt a foul ball, so when I was getting ready to go back, I felt like something was wrong and I took off my batting glove to show my coach at first (base) to see what he thought and as soon as the glove came off, I had a feeling that my baseball career had ended in that moment.” 
What he saw was something he wished had never happened and something that would set him back in ways he could never have imagined. 
“I could already tell that my hand was likely broken and it was already swelling. Even though I knew it was bad, I wanted to go back up to bat because I had the feeling that it would be my last time playing on that field, but I also wanted to do it for my team. But our trainer and coaches knew that it would only have gotten worse if I did so, I appreciate them for that. I talked to the trainer about it and then talked to my mom about it. I know she was trying to be positive about everything, but I think we both knew that I had played my last game as an Eagle and most likely my last game forever.” 
There was no way Thomas was going to go to the hospital to get his hand checked out until the game was over so he stayed and cheered on his teammates to a win over Tullahoma. 
“There are a lot of words that could have described what I was feeling. I was mad, upset, and could only think why this had to happen to me. I didn’t understand and I still don’t, but I’ve learned that what happened was not in my control and that it was meant to happen for a reason,” Thomas said.  
“After all of this happened and after getting an x-ray, I knew that it was over and didn’t know what to do. I was laying on the bed in the emergency room confused, but then Mrs. Annette (Williams) came and talked to me. She told me that she didn’t know why this happened but knew that God has a plan for me, even if it is playing baseball again or not, and I know, at the moment, I didn’t say anything, but I can’t thank her enough her encouraging words.” 
The Golden Eagle baseball team is like a big family and when a teammate is down or having a hard time, they are there for one another.  
Coach Jones’ emphasized that aspect of life to the team more than anything. 
“After we were getting ready to leave and when I got to the lobby, I saw all of my coaches and a couple of teammates. They talked to me and helped me feel better about the situation. I can’t thank them enough for showing up after a late game and coming to see me. You don’t realize how much you need people to help you until you are at your lowest. I will always be grateful for them being there for me.” 
It was official. Thomas suffered a broken hand and his season was over. 
“My hand specialist in Franklin said the local ER did a great job setting the break the night of my injury, which led to me not needing surgery,” Thomas said.  
“The only thing I need to do treatment-wise is to be cautious in using it at all while it heals. Recovery time could be anywhere from six-to-eight weeks.” 
“The night of his injury when he found out his hand was broken and his season was pretty much over (from a playing standpoint), he obviously was devastated,” Jones said.  
“We told him that night that he might not be out on the field, but he was still going to play a huge role for us if we wanted to achieve our team goals.” 
Dealing with something like this is unfortunate and it’s bound to be a challenge for any student athlete. 
“It really sucked at first and it still does. At first, I didn’t know what my role on this team would be. My role there had always been to show up and play my hardest every game but I can’t do that anymore,” Thomas said.  
“So, I’ve found a new role to bring more energy to the dugout. I’m going to keep trying to bring more positive energy to the dugout and find new ways to help them win.” 
Going from a talented day-to-day starter to someone who can only support the team in a positive manner mentally shows how he is growing as a young man. 
“Baseball has played a huge role in my life. I have developed skills that made me a better player, but it’s shown me more about how to be a better man. I’ve loved the sport ever since the first time I walked on the field. I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t playing baseball. I’ve lived this sport for so long that I can’t imagine what life would be like without it,” Thomas said.  
“It means a lot to me that I had the ability to play baseball my whole life, but I think the sport means as much to my mom (Tina Corley) as it does to me. I don’t think in the past 13 years of playing she’s missed a game. She was always there to support me even if it was a good or bad game. I’m very hopeful I can find a chance to continue my baseball career.” 
For Thomas, baseball is more than a game.  It has been a major part of his life.  
“In my earlier days of baseball, I remember always showing up to the rec center ready to have fun. I remember everyone in my family coming to the games to support me,” Thomas said.  
“In most of the memories I have of my biological dad were when he came to the games when I was young. After most of the games I played I remember he would take me to the arcade room at the rec center and let me play on the machines in there as much as I wanted. I never really saw him any before he passed so I’m glad I have these memories with him.” 
“I also was lucky enough to have my mom there always to support me. She was even planning on missing a trip she won to Hawaii to watch me play, so if that doesn’t tell you how dedicated she was, I don’t know what will,” Thomas said.  
“One of the best things is all of the friends I made from this sport. I’ve been playing baseball with these guys since we were five years old. “The friendships I’ve made from this sport will last a lifetime and I’m glad I had all of these things over the years.” 
Thomas has had to overcome adversity in this sport before when he didn’t make the middle school team. 
“I played baseball with all of my friends all the way until middle school. I remember being so nervous for the middle school tryouts and nervous of failure. We showed up to the tryouts and everything was going OK but at the end of the tryouts they called out all of the names that had made the team. Every one of my friends’ names were called, but mine wasn’t,” Thomas said.  
“I was mad and confused on why I didn’t make it and I asked what I could do to be better. I was told they didn’t see enough from me to be able to help them in the future. That drove me more than anything I can remember. I made sure that the next time I stepped out there they wouldn’t have to think twice about me being on that team. I worked my tail off for the next year and I remember coming to that tryout being more prepared than ever. I ended up making the team and being the starting third baseman towards the end of the season. Ever since, I’ve made sure to be a standout player and I’ve been a starter for the Eagles ever since. So, the main thing I would take from that is to make failure drive you to be better.” 
Thomas is so thankful to have built such a bond with his teammates and offers these words of encouragement to them. 
“I would tell my teammates to play every game like it’s your last. It’s easy to say it when you’re playing but when your season ends unexpectedly like mine did, you really never know when your last game will be. I also want to tell them to believe in everything they’re doing. Playing in the game, it’s hard to tell how much potential you really have, but being in the dugout watching them, it’s easy to see that they have a chance to do something special this season,” Thomas said.  
“They have all the talent in the world but just need to start believing even more. Skill will only take you so far. Belief will take this team to places they never would’ve imagined. I also want to say to them to clear all failure and mistakes during the game. I’ve been known as a person that can get mad after a strikeout, but I strived to be better for myself, but especially for my teammates. One way to bring your team down is to be the negative energy in the dugout. Turn that negative energy into motivation to be better. I know this team can do big things, but I just need them to believe. Not just for themselves but for each other. If they do this trust me, they will go far in this run. Play for the guy next to you and believe. Prove people wrong.” 
“Caden is a very special young man.  He is a fierce competitor and has shown great leadership this season.  He has tremendous expectations of himself and at times is absolutely his harshest critic. He was such an integral part to our middle infield and the middle of our lineup before his injury,” Jones said.  
Having seen Thomas’ transition from the field to the dugout, Jones feels like he’s gained another coach to help encourage the Eagles.  
“Many young men in his position might feel sorry for themselves and bring bad energy around the team or even distance themselves from their teammates. Caden has been just the opposite. He has basically become another coach on the staff. He is extremely encouraging and helpful to all his teammates. I know he has had to have had some pretty emotional moments away from the guys, but when he is around them, he is the absolute best teammate you could ask for. I hate Caden broke his hand and is no longer able to play for us, but it has been a blessing to watch how he has adapted his role and is as big an asset for us now as he has ever been.”