Sports

Natural Leadership

W hether it’s leaping over the

fence to save a home run or

bunting to move runners over, Olympic center fielder and leadoff hitter Chester Thomas knows his status — he’s a leader.

“Everyone has their own role on our team,” said Thomas, referring to the senior-laden roster. “I feel that playing good defense and getting hits in the leadoff role sets the team off well. I have to be a leader on defense and offense. We all have different ways of expressing our leadership.”

The Trojans’ baseball team features several familiar names from basketball season in addition to Thomas.

Stephen Braun. Reid Kessler. Robert Messing. Jeff Shaw.

All still feel the risidual pain of basketball season, when the Trojans finished 9-12 and were eliminated by Shelton, 78-74, in a Narrows League Playoff game on Feb. 17 that left Olympic out of the district tournament.

“We look back and realize that we could’ve gone further than we did,” Thomas said. “Being seniors, baseball is our last chance and we’re going all out. We really have nothing to lose, so we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

The baseball diamond has proved more adventageous for the Trojans, who won six of their last seven games en route to a 10-4 Narrows League Bridge Division record and played Wilson at 4 p.m. Friday with the winner advancing to the West Central District Tournament.

“It feels really good,” Thomas said. “It’s one step closer to our goal, which is reaching state. This is our chance to do something.”

Given the choice of being a playmaker on the diamond versus the hardwood, Thomas will take a day basking in the sunlight.

“Basketball is a fun sport to play and watch, but I’m liking baseball more as I get older,” he said. “I always dreamed of being 6-foot-6 and playing professionally. I figured my height wouldn’t get me there with basketball, but the average baseball player is 5-foot-10 to 6-feet.”

And even at 5-foot-8, Thomas is gaining the attention of college coaches.

“Right now, I’ve talked with a couple of coaches,” Thomas said. “I’m thinking about either Olympic College or Skagit. I’m still struggling with my decision.”

Thomas, who said he was offered a full scholarship by OC and partial financial assistance by Skagit College, will make a decision following the season. The path following college appears less cloudy for Thomas.

“My No. 1-goal is to keep moving up in baseball,” he said. “But I don’t think I’m ready to turn professional out of high school.”

Thomas said the success of former West Sound prep stars — Central Kitsap’s Todd Linden, North Kitsap’s Aaron Sele and South Kitsap’s Willie Bloomquist and Jason Ellison — provides proof that local baseball players can play professionally.

“I didn’t meet Todd Linden when he was (at CK), but my (summer-league team) went to a Rainiers’ game when he was playing a game there,” Thomas said. “He autographed a baseball for me and I talked a bit with (Ellison), too. It was a great experience to talk with those guys and it inspired me to keep working.”

While baseball players are know for superstitions ranging from wearing old socks during hitting streaks to growing facial hair, Thomas found his from the encounter with Linden.

“I cut the laces out of the baseball Todd Linden signed for me and made it into a bracelet as a superstition,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, it will bring me good luck.”

At school, Thomas is the one who is revered. He was Olympic’s homecoming king in the fall and is one of the most popular athletes in the school.

“I’m pretty sure he’s the most popular guy in the school,” said Brian Smith, a senior who was Thomas’ teammate on the basketball team and a long-time friend. “He can always be a friend and he doesn’t reject anyone really. He’s easy to talk to.”

Even when the situation becomes more serious.

“When I got into a car accident, he was basically the first person there,” said Smith, who ran his car into a ditch on a rainy afternoon.

Coming from a military family, Thomas said he’s been trained to maintain excellence in all aspects of life, especially in the classroom, where he holds a 3.59 grade-point average.

“Most parents are happy when their kids get a C,” he said. “But to me, that’s like getting an F because my parents won’t accept that.”

Because an “F” won’t meet his standards. Chester Thomas is a leader.

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