Last season, after breaking his collarbone for the second time in a year, Brandon Thompson spent a lot of time watching Yelm High School’s baseball team.
He played the final seven games of the season, rallying the Tornados from a six-game losing streak.
“We were instantly a different team,” Yelm coach Brady Hoover said. “You don’t see that very often, where one guy elevates your team that much.”
Yelm won four of its final six regular-season games with Thompson in the outfield, before losing to Kentlake, 1-0, in the district playoffs.
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Hoover wasn’t sure the Tornados would have Thompson back at all in his junior season.
But during that short stretch, Thompson cemented himself as one of the most pivotal players in Yelm’s program.
“Brandon is a special player,” Hoover said. “He’s got a lot of ability, and I don’t think he’s scratched the surface on how good he can be.”
This season, Thompson, a senior, leads the Tornados in nearly every offensive category and is one of South Sound’s most athletic outfielders.
Since Thompson opted to pursue a future in baseball, Hoover said he’s started to tap into his potential.
“I think he’s really seeing his upside in baseball,” Hoover said.
Thompson has been a two-sport athlete for four years at Yelm, splitting time between baseball and football, and excelling at both.
He had an offer to play football at Simon Fraser University after finishing his senior season with 1,353 all-purpose yards.
He was a Class 3A South Sound Conference first-team selection at running back and an Olympian All-Area selection at defensive back.
However, he announced in January on Twitter that he would focus on baseball. He signed to play for Tacoma Community College in March.
“I was just thinking about the future,” Thompson said.
It probably will be easier to stay healthy playing baseball, he said — both collarbone injuries were football-related.
“In the long run, thinking about health, I didn’t have a place I really wanted to be in football,” he said. “It still hasn’t really hit me yet, but it had to end sometime.”
There’s a possibility Thompson’s baseball career could extend beyond college.
“If he stays healthy, he might play baseball for a long time,” Hoover said.
Thompson has worked out in front of scouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Kansas City Royals.
He traveled south to Vancouver before the high school season started as part of an invitational camp that pro scouts attended.
“I kind of got a bigger picture of where I stacked up to other people,” Thompson said.
TCC coach Ryan Mummert said, from a physical standpoint, Thompson has the potential to elevate to a professional career.
Hoover marvels at Thompson’s ability to track down balls in the outfield and make plays that other high school athletes can’t.
He’s fast — professional organizations like guys that can run, Mummert said.
Thompson bats left-handed, which is a plus, and he’s plenty competitive.
“There are tools there that are good for us and can help him in the future, if the pieces of the puzzle come together,” Mummert said.
“I just think I need a couple more years to develop and get ready,” Thompson said.
Thompson is expected to play right away in college. The Titans graduate three outfielders this year, which will give Thompson the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
“Our goal is to help these guys move on to some of those dream schools they want to work towards,” Mummert said.
For Thompson, that could be somewhere in the South, he said, or maybe close to home at UW or WSU.
But, first, Thompson hopes to help lead the Tornados to the state playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Yelm (10-7) plays Mountain View (13-7) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heritage Park in Puyallup in the first round of the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament.
“Hopefully we’ll go far and kind of shock people,” Thompson said.