Milt Thompson played 13 seasons in the majors with the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers and Rockies before going into coaching. Thompson was the Phillies' hitting coach for more than five years before being fired in 2010 and returning to the Astros as the team's minor league baserunning and outfield instructor. Thompson was in Oklahoma City for the series against Albuquerque, working with the RedHawks before joining the Astros' Class A team in Lexington, Ky.
What is the best thing about working with minor league players?
The key is, you work with the kid and you see these kids get to the big leagues. It's a big joy. Last year you had J.D. Martinez, (Jose) Altuve and (Jimmy) Paredes make it. It was very good. It's very rewarding to see the hard work those kids put in pay off.
Did you always know you wanted to be a coach after your playing career ended?
Oh yeah. I've always loved the game. When you can't play anymore, this is the next best thing — teaching. I enjoy teaching and I do the job anyway I can to explain to them that talent alone is not going to keep you in the big leagues. You've got to become a student of the game. That's one of the things that I really stress when I talk to the kids and when we're working and doing our drills.
Do you want to get back to coaching in the majors?
I'm enjoying what I'm doing right now. The game has changed a little bit. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I can't explain it. I just enjoy what I'm doing. I enjoy teaching. These kids are willing to listen. They're trying to get to that next level and going all the way through the system, they're trying to get to the big leagues. It's enjoyable, they listen and learn a lot.
You're a motivational speaker in the offseason?
I really try to give back to the community and go to a bunch of schools in the offseason and talk to them about the importance of education and working hard. It's very important to me. I also do a lot of work in the Camden (N.J.) community with the Boys and Girls Club. I've been very blessed to be able to play in the big leagues for quite awhile and as a coach also so that's just my way of giving back to the community and letting the kids know that it's OK to dream and want things but you've got to have an education to make it in this life.
Did you always place that importance on education?
Around my fifth grade year, I did a little soul searching and said hey, what do you want to do when you grow up? This is my little thing to the kids I speak to, they have to think about three things they want to do once they get out of school and I give them a week to think about it. I don't want you to just go write it down quickly. Once they give me their three goals then they get an autograph, so it's a fair deal. I have about 7,000 of them right now.