Thames grateful for life's latest twist

Brewers' new addition reflects on playing in S. Korea, Christmas memories

Thames grateful for life's latest twist

MILWAUKEE -- In previous years, Eric Thames might already be making plans for the long trip to South Korea, where he has starred the past three seasons for the NC Dinos in the Korean Baseball Organization. But Thames will stay closer to home in 2017, having signed a three-year contract with the Brewers to play first base.

He took some time to speak to MLB.com about his journey back to Major League Baseball and to share some memories of Christmases past.

MLB.com: For many, the holidays are a time to reflect on the year that was. What have you been thinking about?

Eric Thames: I'm still in shock. I'm realizing how crazy life is, how a few months ago I had no idea where I was going to be. Japan? Korea? I didn't really think I would be back in the States, let alone with the Brewers on a big league deal. So it makes me appreciate life. You can't control what's going to happen; all you can do is your best, and life is going to do what it wants to do. I'm thankful for the opportunity.

MLB.com: What will you miss about playing in Asia?

Thames: I'm going to miss the people; the friends that I made, my teammates, the coaches. I'll miss the routine a little bit. But life comes at you, and you have to move on. I enjoyed my time there and I don't regret anything. And of course, if I ever want to go back there, I can just hop on a flight and go see my friends.

MLB.com: Did you ever do Christmas in South Korea?

Thames: No, but there is something called Chuseok, which is kind of like their version of Thanksgiving. You pay respects to your elders, to your grandparents and great-grandparents who passed on. I have one of the outfits you wear -- it's called a hanbok -- that has red silk pants, a long-sleeved white silk shirt and a red vest. Traditionally, everyone would wear them the whole day, but now I guess kids are too cool to wear them as much. But of course, me [and KBO teammates] Zach Stewart and Eric Hacker all wore it the whole day. It was awesome.

 

 

MLB.com: What was Christmas like in the Thames home?

Thames: Nothing over the top. Two kids who couldn't sleep at all. That's one thing I appreciate about having grown up: Being able to sleep in on Christmas. I remember as a kid, staring at my ceiling all night. Especially one year when there was a toy I really wanted, a Power Rangers Megazord. I slept zero that night. My mom is the ultimate shopper; she always got us what we wanted if we were good. If we weren't good, better luck next year.

MLB.com: So you've already answered the best gift you've ever received. What's the worst?

Thames: That's a tough one. I once got a book on hitting. And OK, I understand that no matter what your craft is, it's always good to learn. But it was like, 'Does this mean I [stink]?' I was already in pro ball, and this wasn't a book from Rod Carew or Tony Gwynn or Ted Williams, which are actually really good books. It was like the ABCs of hitting a baseball. I was like, 'Um, this is going in the trash.'

MLB.com: What's the best gift you've ever given?

Thames: In 2011, after my first callup to the big leagues, I knew my mom wanted a gold watch because her watch broke. I was living in this complex that had a watch store right downstairs, so I went to check out some gold watches, and they had a Rolex. It wasn't really expensive like some Rolexes, but she flipped out. She, like, lost her mind. She loved it and she still wears it every day. That's a really good feeling.

MLB.com: You grew up in Southern California and now live in Las Vegas. Have you ever had a White Christmas?

Thames: Is that like a Secret Santa thing?

MLB.com: No, a proper, snow-on-the-ground, freezing-cold White Christmas.

Thames: Oh, oh, oh. No, [laughing] but every few years, I go to Toronto or someplace really cold around the holidays to see friends, usually for New Year's Eve. I love the snow. I love the cold. Everyone always wants to go to the beach, but I want to go someplace we need to wear the big, thick jacket and boots. That's pretty cool.

MLB.com: Favorite old school Christmas movie: It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street?

Thames: I'll take none of the above and say Die Hard.

MLB.com: So there's no debate for you? Die Hard is a Christmas movie?

Thames: Yeah, of course. Die Hard is the best.

MLB.com: What's atop your Christmas wish list this year?

Thames: You know, at this point in my life, the enjoyment I get out of Christmas is seeing people happy. I'm just like my dad now. Every year, you would ask, 'Hey Dad, what do you want for Christmas?' And he would always say socks and underwear. So that's where I'm at now. Give me some socks and underwear to last the whole year, some thick, fresh socks to put on Jan. 1, and I'm good.

I'm excited about next year. New team, new coaches, new teammates, a chance to have a good time playing baseball, and for me to kind of prove myself. I'd like to be an All-Star. That's a good goal.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.