Going his own way: In a family of basketball players, Birmingham Baron Trayce Thompson chose …


For Birmingham Barons star outfielder Trayce Thompson, basketball is a family affair.


Yes, basketball.


His father, Mychal Thompson, was the overall No. 1 pick in the 1978 NBA Draft and played 12 seasons in the league. Today, he is a radio analyst for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played on two championship teams in 1987 and 1988.


His oldest brother, Mychel, was a star for Pepperdine University and is with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA developmental league; his middle brother, Klay, was the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and is the Golden State Warriors’ starting shooting guard.


So, why baseball for Trayce?


The brothers grew up playing all sports — football, basketball and baseball — in Portland, Ore., and then California, and there came a time when baseball became the sport for Trayce.


“As a kid, I just loved to hit. I loved going to the batting cages,” he said. “I just love everything about baseball.”


He said it was obvious from the time he was in first or second grade that baseball would end up being the sport for him — despite his family’s affinity for basketball.


“Ask anyone I grew up with in Portland and they’d probably say they knew I’d be a baseball player,” he said.


Thompson, who turned 23 last month, entered the 2014 season ranked as the No. 8 prospect, best athlete and best defensive outfielder in the White Sox organization by Baseball America. This is his fifth season in the White Sox organization and third with the Barons. He finished the 2013 season second on the team in hits (116), doubles (23), runs (78), RBIs (73) and home runs (15). And he stole 25 bases. In his first eight games this season, Thompson is hitting .323 with two doubles, two RBIs and six runs


While it might seem a bit extraordinary to outsiders, Thompson said that his family’s success in professional sports doesn’t surprise him.


“You do see it in some families, where people make it in the same sport, but I guess it’s pretty rare that I’m playing baseball,” he said. “It’s pretty cool, and maybe we’ll make it the top of each of our sports.”


He credits his upbringing for the success and attitude he and his brothers have.


“My parents put no pressure on me whatsoever, to even play any sports at all,” he said. “Our dad would just bring us around and we developed a love for sports. My dad has always been my hero, I wanted to be just like him. And mom just supports me.”


Mother Julie Thompson, who played volleyball at the University of San Francisco, said that her goal as a parent has always been a simple one: “You really just want your kids to be happy.”


When it became apparent that baseball was what brought her youngest son happiness, she was a bit surprised.


“Trayce played everything growing up, but after his junior year on his birthday he decided to focus on baseball going forward. I’ll never forget that day,” she said. “We never really talked about it before, but it turned out being great.”


Today, she said, he’s content where he’s at. “He’s had a real positive experience. He’s had great teammates, and he’s in a great organization that’s like family,” she said. “And I think he really likes Birmingham.”


With such busy lives, the Thompson family keeps in touch on a daily basis — even though they may not see each other very often.


“We don’t get to all be together very often,” she said. “We were together one night at Christmas, but we group text sometimes and stay in touch.”


She watches her basketball-playing sons’ games on television, and keeps up with the Barons online. And she and her husband will make it to Birmingham to see some games this season.


Looking to the future, she said that she has high hopes for Trayce.


“I know he’s got all the talent in the world, but I’m probably the only person who doesn’t talk to him about moving up,” she said. “He hears about it from everyone else, so I try to refrain from it. I just want him to do his very best.”


In the meantime, she said that she tries to be as supportive as possible. “Time goes so far with your kids, you really just want to make the most of the time you have with them,” she said.


After all, kids are kids — whether they’re big-time basketball or baseball players.


“I’m happy to go to Birmingham, and just do a basket of laundry for Trayce, and be a mom for him,” she said.

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