LSU Baseball Assistant Coach
Henry “Turtle” Thomas served as the LSU baseball program’s recruiting coordinator and hitting instructor for seven seasons (2000-2006). Thomas, who also tutored the Tigers’ catchers and outfielders, joined the LSU staff on July 1, 1999, after serving 12 seasons as an assistant coach at Miami (Fla.).
Thomas was recognized as one of the nation’s best college baseball recruiters, as Collegiate Baseball ranked his Miami and LSU signing classes among the Top 10 for 17 straight years.
Thomas’ LSU classes appeared among the top six for six consecutive years, including 2004, when the Tigers signed the No. 1 class in the country. Thomas’ other recruiting rankings at LSU included No. 2 in 2000 and 2001, No. 3 in 2002, No. 6 in 2003 and No. 5 in 2005.
Thomas’ record as LSU’s hitting instructor was also exemplary, as the Tigers led the Southeastern Conference in hits, runs scored and RBI in four of his seven seasons. The 2004 LSU squad led the SEC in seven offensive categories, including batting average (.333), runs (515), slugging percentage (.506), hits (791), on-base percentage (.400), RBI (473) and sacrifice flies (39).
Thomas’ impact at LSU was immediate, as he helped direct the Tigers to the 2000 CWS title. Under his supervision, LSU’s hitters established Southeastern Conference single-season records for hits (864) and doubles (194), and the Tigers set a school mark for batting average (.340). Thomas’ star pupil in 2000 was LSU catcher Brad Cresse, who led the nation in home runs (30) and RBI (106). Cresse also won the 2000 Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s most outstanding collegiate catcher.
Thomas tutored LSU shortstop Aaron Hill, the 2003 SEC Player of the Year and a first-team all-America selection. Hill was the ?03 first-round draft selection (13th pick overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays, and he made his major league debut in 2005. Thomas coached three other Tigers who reached the big leagues in ’05 ? infielders Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot of the Chicago Cubs, and catcher Ryan Jorgensen of the Florida Marlins.
More recently, Thomas supervised the development of two first-team all-America outfielders — Jon Zeringue, the 2004 SEC Co-Player of the Year, and Ryan Patterson, a 2005 all-SEC selection. Zeringue was selected in the second round of the ?04 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Patterson was chosen in the fourth round of the ’05 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thomas was instrumental in the maturation of outfielder Quinn Stewart, a fifth-year senior who led the SEC in 2006 with 23 home runs and was voted first-team all-conference. Two of Thomas’ prize recruits ? second baseman J.T. Wise and outfielder Jarred Bogany ? immediately impacted the LSU program in ’06 as each player earned Freshman all-SEC honors and Wise also received Freshman all-America recognition.
As the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach at Miami, Thomas helped lead the Hurricanes to six consecutive College World Series appearances (1994-99), including the 1999 national championship.
Collegiate Baseball ranked each of his Miami recruiting classes from 1989-99 in the top 10. The 1989, ’92 and ’94 classes were ranked No. 1, and the 1991 and ’99 classes were ranked No. 2.
In addition to his recruiting duties, Thomas served as Miami’s hitting coach from 1996-99. In his first three seasons in that capacity, the Hurricanes posted a .334 team batting average and a .557 slugging percentage while averaging more than nine runs per game. Miami’s 1999 NCAA championship team batted .333 and launched 104 home runs.
More than 60 of Thomas’ recruits have gone on to play professional baseball, including major leaguers like catcher Charles Johnson, pitcher Alex Fernandez, catcher Jorge Fabregas, infielder Pat Burrell, outfielder Todd Linden and pitcher Roy Corcoran.
Thomas is a 1975 graduate of High Point (N.C.) College, and he earned a master’s degree from UNC-Greensboro in 1978. He was a four-year letterman at catcher, playing two seasons at Campbell University before completing his final two undergraduate years at High Point.
Thomas worked as an assistant coach at Clemson from 1979-85 before joining the Georgia Tech staff under head coach Jim Morris. Thomas worked two years at Georgia Tech, where he was elevated to assistant head coach. He was then hired by legendary Miami coach Ron Fraser on October 13, 1987.
Thomas is married to the former Maria Carmen Nateman, and they have three children, Kevin, Kristen and Keith.
Finally, why the name “Turtle?”
Thomas explains, “It wasn’t because I was slow, some kid in junior high school thought I looked like a turtle.”
Year at LSU: Seventh
Birthdate: January 17, 1953
Hometown: High Point, N.C.
Children: Kevin, Kristen, Keith
Bachelors: High Point College (1975)
Master’s: UNC-Greensboro (1978)
1979-85 Clemson (asst. coach)
1986-87 Georgia Tech (asst. head coach)
1988-99 Miami, Fla. (asst. coach/recruiting coordinator)
2000-06 LSU (asst. coach/recruiting coordinator)