NORMAN — Cody Thomas hasn’t gone to the wrong practice or shown up at the wrong stadium this spring.
“Not yet,” he said.
Only one more week to go.
The Oklahoma freshman is the baseball-playing quarterback or the football-playing outfielder, depending on your vantage point. No matter how you see it, though, this has been an interesting spring for Thomas, who’s vying for the backup quarterback job while trying to bust into the outfield rotation.
His two-sport spring culminates next weekend with football’s Red-White Game smack in the middle of baseball’s three-game series against Red River rival Texas.
“I was pretty busy in high school,” Thomas said of balancing football and baseball at Heritage in Colleyville, Texas, “but this is college level and it’s a whole other deal.
“I’ve become a really good time manager, I’ll say that.”
So, he’s kept his sense of humor.
Standing on the field at Mitchell Park after baseball practice this past week, you could see that he’s kept his sanity, too. That’s no small thing since he’s been balancing baseball season with spring football for the past month or so.
How has it worked?
Thomas is on a full football scholarship, so football takes precedence whether in the fall or the spring. Football practices. Football meetings. All of those come before baseball obligations.
But even with that, Thomas hasn’t missed all that many baseball commitments this spring. There have been a few practices that he missed, though the coaches have helped him get in batting practice when his schedule allows, and there have only been two games that he’s had to skip.
Baseball coach Pete Hughes and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel devised a plan for Thomas before spring football began, and while a few surprises have popped up here and there, things have mostly gone as planned.
“We want him to have success in both” sports, Sooner football coach Bob Stoops said, “and I know (the baseball coaches) want him to, too.”
Mission accomplished, Thomas said. He thinks he’s made strides in both sports this spring. On the baseball field, he feels like he’s improved his opposite-field hitting and is better at getting his hands inside the ball. On the football field, he feels like his footwork is vastly better than when he arrived on campus last summer.
And he’s gotten bigger and stronger, which helps in both sports. He arrived on campus with 200 pounds on 6-foot-5 frame. Now, he’s just under 220.
He does lifting and conditioning with the football team, by the way. When the baseball team lifts and runs, he gets to cool his heels, a rarity this spring.
“It’s been a balancing act between the two sports,” Thomas said, “but I’ve really enjoyed it. I look forward to doing it the next three years, four years.
“I just hope to be able to get on the field in both sports.”
Opportunities have been limited in baseball. Thomas has appeared in only six games this season, though you have to wonder if he might play more once spring football is over.
As for football, playing time seems possible this fall. Kendal Thompson transferred, Blake Bell switched positions, and Trevor Knight struggled to finish games because of injury this past season. So, with the Sooners needing to solidify their backup quarterback spot, did Thomas ever consider sitting out baseball to try to cement a spot in the pecking order?
“No, that thought hasn’t come into my mind yet,” Thomas said. “I’ve been playing baseball and football my whole entire life, and I can’t see it any different right now.
“Maybe one day that will come, but right now, I’m sticking with it.”
Maybe that day will be when he’s competing to be the starting quarterback or when he’s named the starting quarterback. Maybe then he will want to focus all of his attention on football.
But for the time being, Thomas is going to keep a cleat in both sports.
Teammates on both teams tell Thomas often that he’s a little crazy to do this. They know how much work one sport is, and they know that the downtime they have is usually when Thomas is doing his other sport.
“Not much free time when you’re playing both,” he said. “Baseball plays on the weekend, and that’s usually when football has off.”
“But again, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love what I’m doing.”
A few minutes later, Thomas left the field for his next appointment. It was a community service event with the baseball team. He wore a baseball shirt and a backward cap. As he turned to leave, he revealed a Sugar Bowl logo on the front of the cap given to all the football players after beating Alabama.
Seems the two sports are a constant part of his life right now.
Two sports too difficult?
Not for Cody Thomas.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.