(The following article was published Feb. 13, 2007, in the Macon Telegraph)
By Sarah Meinecke
TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER
Josh Thompson was a standout athlete when he was a student at Fullington Academy. He played football, basketball and baseball, and he also competed in track and field, so it wasn't much of a surprise that he was highly recruited during his senior season.
Among the schools battling for Thompson's baseball talents was Mercer. At the time, the Bears had little to offer, baseball-wise. The facilities were less-than-impressive, with a record to match.
But its proximity to home was just right for Thompson, and he chose Mercer over Georgia Southern and Georgia Southwestern.
And it turned out to be the perfect choice, for Thompson has been a key player in the revival of the Bears' baseball team.
"We won 11 games (his freshman season)," said Mercer head coach Craig Gibson, who was an assistant during that 2003 season. "We were the laughingstock of baseball, and he took a chance on us."
But as Gibson points out, not many teams are laughing at the Bears anymore. Mercer, which has progressively improved during the past four seasons, opened this year with a pair of victories over the then-No. 2 Miami Hurricanes.
Following that series, Thompson was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week.
The Bears dropped three straight last weekend to Bethune-Cookman but get a chance to get back on track Wednesday with their home opener against Georgia State.
"We've improved every year," said Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound redshirt senior. "The coaching staff does a good job of bringing in quality players and putting a better team on the field to compete."
There wasn't much competition during Thompson's first season with the Bears back in 2003. The true freshman played in 11 games for Mercer before a hand injury forced him to use a medical redshirt the remainder of the dismal season.
The improvements started to show for Mercer the next season when Gibson took over as head coach for Barry Myers. The Bears went from 11-34 to 20-35 as Thompson, fully recovered from the injury, started in 37 games and hit .273 with nine doubles.
"The medical redshirt was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it gave me another year to mature," Thompson said. "(Gibson) took over the next year and started building the program up. I'm glad it happened."
He started 52 games in 2005 and batted .319 with 12 homers and 46 runs batted in. And last year, Thompson hit .332 and led the A-Sun with 15 home runs, capping the season by graduating with a degree in business.
Bypassed in the major league draft last summer, Thompson returned and was the preseason pick for Atlantic Sun Conference preseason Player of the Year honors.
"I wasn't drafted (but) I thought I was going to be," said Thompson, who was married Sept. 16, 2006, to high school sweetheart, Kristen Burk. "I decided to come back and work on my master's.
"It was a good decision, because I started out here. I came to college to play baseball, and I wanted to finish what I started."
Contact Meinecke at 744-4248 or firstname.lastname@example.org