It’s hard to imagine any athlete has ever gone though North High and accomplished as much on the athletic fields as Jimmy Thomas. He entered North High in 1972 after attending Beardsley Jr. High. He played football (4 years), basketball (2 years) and baseball (4 years) and was a standout in all three sports.
In football, Thomas was a starter for three years under legendary Coach Turk Eliades, playing quarterback, running back, linebacker and defensive back. He was All-League at quarterback as a senior in 1976 and turned down six Division-1 scholarships for football after his senior season.
In basketball, he started on the JV team as a freshman then played on the varsity as a sophomore. Wanting to concentrate on baseball and football, he gave up basketball after his sophomore year.
In baseball, he was a big part of one of North High’s greatest eras under another legendary coach Sam Barton. North High won the SYL Championship in 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976. The big prize was the Valley Championship for the Stars in 1976, the first ever in the history of the school. Thomas was the team’s catcher, earning All-City honors in both 1975 and 1976. In his senior year, he was also awarded the prestigious Harry Coffee and Sam Lynn Awards, as well as being named to All-State state team.
After his career at North High, Thomas accepted a full-ride scholarship to UCLA and was part of back to back Pac-8 and Pac-10 Championship teams for the Bruins. Then in June of 1980, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres and spent 6 years in their minor league system, making it as high as AAA in Las Vegas. In 1983, he was named MVP of Reno, the Padres Class A team in the California League. That year he hit .272 with 15 HR’s and 83 RBI’s while catching 132 of the 140 games. Was called up to AAA Las Vegas at the end of the season. Jim had another shot at AAA Las Vegas in 1985 before retiring.
Jim also had a cup of coffee with the Padres during the strike season in 1983, playing alongside Steve Garvey and current Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Terry Kennedy, another future major league manager, was on that team, along with Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Goose Gossage.
After leaving professional baseball, Thomas came home to Bakersfield, teaching and coaching the sport. He was part of the Frontier High coaching staff for teams that won back-to-back Valley Championships in 2010 and 2011. He was also an assistant coach at North High for several years.
Thomas is currently teaching and is the Athletic Director for the Kernville School District.
He credits some of his mentors Turk Eliades, Sam Barton, Jack O’Brien, Tony Silver and Terry Hill for his success.