LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky senior catcher Micheal Thomas has been named to the midseason watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, given annually to the best catcher in college baseball, it was announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission on Friday afternoon.
A native of Elizabethtown, Ky., Thomas is one of five catchers added to the midseason watch list. A 5-foot-11, 210-pound fifth-year senior, Thomas is one of three catchers in the Southeastern Conference on the list, joining South Carolina's Grayson Greiner and Florida's Taylor Gushue.
Thomas is putting together a breakout season in 2014, hitting .344 with seven doubles, one triple and six homers, driving in 35 runs. Thomas ranks 11th in the SEC in average, fourth in slugging (.555), 15th in on-base percentage (.423) and third in RBI and homers. Thomas has allowed the fewest steals in the SEC among full-time catchers, surrendering just 14 steals, while catching seven runners trying to steal a base. Thomas has started 12 consecutive games behind the plate
"He understands the hard work and dedication to maximize his talents and those experiences have allowed Micheal to help others maximize their abilities," UK catching coordinator Keith Vorhoff said "Having only played in a limited role early in his career, he understands motivation and how to push those around him. He expects a lot from himself which in turn rubs off on those around him, elevating the standards of our entire program. He has a strong understanding of our pitching staff and understands which buttons to push and when to push them. Micheal has a vocal presence on the field and brings an energy that keeps our pitching staff and defense focus. On the occasional days we give him a rest and he's not behind the plate, his presence on the field is definitely missed, but he always manages to positively influence our team from the dugout.
"Micheal is what college baseball is all about. In my 12 years coaching I haven't come across a better story. Micheal was a true walk-on in our program and has worked incredibly hard to improve his body, athleticism, and skills. He sat for three years, waited his turn, took advantage of every opportunity and brings a legitimate blue-collar personality to our team that makes everyone in the program better, including coaches and staff."
The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, whom will be announced May 15, 2014. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 3, 2014. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita and the winner will be announced at the 17th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 26, 2014.
Kentucky (24-13, 7-8 SEC) will face off with Texas A&M in a crucial three-game series, starting Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET in College Station, Texas, at Blue Bell Park.