stepped off second base, then launched into a full sprint on a hard-clay field last July in Marietta, Ga. Before a bevy of Major League Baseball scouts at the Perfect Game USA summer showcase, the apparent worst-case scenario on this afternoon was a perfect throw stopping him from stealing third base.
Except that when Thomore slid, the back part of his cleat caught in the crusty clay. Seconds later, his father Ken sprinted onto the diamond, stared down and saw his son's left ankle twisted around almost 180 degrees from its normal alignment.
"I threw up in my mouth when I saw it," Ken Thomore said.
Now this was a worst-case scenario: a tornado watch making the wait for an ambulance hours long, at best; the opposing New York Gothams kneeling and praying, and Carl Thomore writhing in agony while thinking: "I might never get to step on the field again."
Because of the auspicious timing of an orthopedic surgeon sitting in the stands and the relentless rehabilitation for his surgically repaired fractured ankle, Thomore is again flashing his five tools as the star center fielder for East Brunswick (N.J.)
. A dozen-plus scouts have been hawking the 6-2, 210-pound senior this spring, equal parts impressed with the perseverance and talent of this prospective early-round pick in June's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
"The only thing I could show them was how much heart and passion I have for this game, and to work my butt off to show that I could get back to where I was and better," Thomore said. "That's what my goal was."
Before last summer, Carl Thomore stayed away from baseball once, albeit briefly. Five years ago, he was a 13-year-old watching his mother, Michele, drift in and out of consciousness while waging a losing battle against breast cancer.
The thought of playing was unfathomable.
"I felt I owed it to her to be with her," Carl said.
Then Michele Thomore opened her eyes and offered her final piece of motherly advice.
"All of a sudden his mom sat up and said, 'Son, go play baseball,'" Ken Thomore recalled.
Michele passed away a few days later, but her last words inspired her son's MVP performance in a local under-16 tournament that weekend.
Since then, everyone who has watched Carl Thomore has admired his uncommon combination of grace, power and speed. Last summer at the Perfect Game USA showcase was supposed to introduce his five-tool talents to Major League scouts, who had only begun to become acquainted with the then-rising senior.
Then came July 9, 2010. There was the flash of speed, the awkward slide, the grotesquely twisted ankle. All of Thomore's future aspirations were eclipsed instantly by incessant surges of pain.
Just after Ken Thomore rushed onto the field, an orthopedic surgeon who arrived early to watch his son play the next game followed. A quick examination showed no pulse in Carl Thomore's lower leg before the surgeon offered him a towel to bite down upon while he reset the leg and got the blood flowing again.
"I said do what you have to do doc," Carl recalled. "He just popped it back in."
After looking at his reset left ankle, Thomore went from fearing for his career to hoping against hope he could play in another showcase two weeks away.
Instead, he underwent surgery July 19 and started thinking ahead. Three days later, Thomore started doing upper-body and core workouts in the gym with his father, eventually packing 12 pounds of muscle onto his frame. And this was in addition to rigorous physical therapy sessions four nights a week.
"(Being hurt) showed me how much I love baseball," Thomore said. "If you don't have the drive to come back from it, you probably don't love it enough."
By late November, Thomore was cleared to resume running. He went to his high school field and, on a whim, ran a 60-yard sprint. Although he admits the clocking could be a tad off, his 6.45-second showing despite lacking complete range of motion offered reassurance.
"I'm right back where I was," Thomore said.
For his first scrimmage this spring, Thomore arrived at the field at 8:30 a.m. and saw scouts throughout the stands. Many of them kept tabs on him during his rehab, and all of them wanted to see just how well one of New Jersey's top prospects had healed.
"It's early still in the season," said advisor Dave Pepe, vice president of the New Jersey-based Pro Agents, Inc., who represents major leaguers such as Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan. "The one thing I will say is I've advised a lot of players' families over the past 15 years and he is getting a great deal of attention. I've seen former GM's and assistant GM's at his games and one scouting director."
Thus far, the early return on Thomore is that he could emerge as New Jersey's first first-round selection since Millville's Mike Trout, who was picked by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009.
"He's the real deal," a National League scout said. "He's a good kid, he's a passionate, driven, focused kid who wants to be a big-leaguer. He doesn't want to just get drafted, he wants to get to that next level."
However, the scout warned that Thomore must follow through with a strong spring, as there is this axiom scouts follow: April's for show, May's for go.
"Right now Carl is doing his resume," the scout said. "He wasn't able to build it as much (last) summer as a lot of kids have done. He's kind of cramming for the final, which would be the draft. His preseason has been really, really good. All of that has made up for lost time."
In his first two games this spring, Thomore has gone 6-for-8 with a home run, four RBIs and, most telling, four stolen bases. His skill and hustle led to his father overhearing what the son considered "the biggest compliment I ever got" during a scrimmage last month at Toms River North.
"The national crosschecker for Boston was there, an older guy," Ken Thomore said. "I heard him talking to his Northeast supervisor and he said to his guy in his Boston accent, 'I could picture that guy wearing a flannel uniform taking train to the game.'"
Carl Thomore is decidedly old school, from his stirrups to his open admiration for Pete Rose. He was originally a recruiting coup for Rutgers, but will attend Chipola College, a two-year school that would enable him to be draft-eligible after his first year instead of waiting three years as per NCAA rules.
However, this spring, after the anguish of last summer, is all about putting himself in position to get drafted high and become a pro ballplayer.
"I plan on doing it for a long time if everything goes right," Thomore said. "That's the only way I'm going to make it. I love the game."