PORT CHARLOTTE, FL— Thomas Milone, the Tampa Bay Rays third round draft pick believes that playing football in high school directly improved his game on the diamond.
Despite the fact the Major League amateur draft was looming, the future outfielder chose to play football for the Masuk Panthers in his senior year. He said the experience was vital and taught him a thing or two about baseball as well.
“Everyone else around town told me not to play. ‘Why are you playing?’ ” Milone said, “but I have played football since I was eight-years-old, and there were five kids on my high school team I had played with my whole life.”
It was an easy decision for the kid from Munroe, Conn. He loved the sport and had a solid support network to back up his decision.
“I definitely liked playing football and I was never going to give it up for my last year of ever playing football.” Milone said, “I wanted to play, so my family stood behind me… I didn’t have to listen to anyone else.”
He never tried to avoid injury when playing football, Milone said. “Never a thought. When I was playing football I was a full pledge. Once you start thinking about it, that’s when you risk injury more than anything.”
Apart from staying injury free and having fun playing football, Milone applied his football knowledge to baseball, both mentally and physically.
“Football is a tough sport, it’s a grind and practise is very tough,” he said. “Mentally, when your team is down a little bit, one play can change the game and it’s the same in baseball.”
Staying focused and alert even when losing is a testament to the centre fielder’s attitude in general. Apart from preparing him mentally, football also helped his physical side of his game.
“Physically, it was tough because you’re always getting hit”, Milone admitted, “but I was a receiver so running routes and catching the long ball, looking over my shoulder is kind of like catching a fly ball.”
Milone, assigned on the March 5 to the Rays, is known to make highlight-reel catches and catching a football with the presence of a defender on his back improved his spatial awareness.
“(As a kid) When I played centre field,” he said, “my coach used to tell me, ‘act like you are playing football, run under the ball.’ ”