Henry "Turtle" Thomas begins his first season at Arizona State as assistant coach and national recruiting coordinator. Thomas comes to ASU after seven seasons at LSU, where he was the Tiger's hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator.
No stranger to big time college baseball, Thomas has coached at some of the elite programs throughout the United States. He began his Division I career as an assistant at Clemson, spending eight seasons there, including a trip to the College World Series in 1980. From there he moved to Georgia Tech, where he spent two years as the assistant head coach under current Miami head coach Jim Morris. In 1988 he was named assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Miami (Florida), where he spent 12 seasons. While with the Hurricanes, Thomas was a part of nine College World Series teams, including the 1999 National Champions. Thomas and Miami went to Omaha six consecutive years from 1994 to 1999.
Thomas joined the LSU Tigers in 2000 and promptly won another National Championship, his second in a row. The 2000 title was one of three trips to the College World Series that Thomas made in his seven seasons in Baton Rouge. All told, Thomas has been to 13 College World Series so far in his 29-year coaching career.
Thomas is considered one of the premiere college baseball recruiters in the nation, thanks to 18 straight recruiting classes ranked among Collegiate Baseball's Top 10 at both Miami and LSU. He is the only recruiting coordinator in the nation who has signed the number one rated class four times, and he has never had a class rated lower than ninth over the past 18 years. Thomas has also signed the #2 rated class four times. Every class he signed at LSU was ranked in the Top 6, including his 2004 class which was considered #1 in the country.
More than 60 of Thomas' recruits have advanced to play pro baseball, including big leaguers Charles Johnson, Alex Fernandez, Pat Burrell, Danny Graves, Alex Cora, Aubrey Huff and Brad Hawpe. He also signed superstars Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez to National Letters of Intent while at Miami, although both signed professionally rather than attend college.
A 1975 graduate of High Point (N.C.) College, Thomas 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 is married to the former Maria Carmen Nateman, and they have three children, Kevin, Kristen and Keith. He picked up the nickname "Turtle" in junior high school from a classmate who thought he resembled a turtle.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
"Turtle Thomas was not only the best hitting coach I've ever had but also one of the greatest mentors as well. To this day, even after six seasons in the major leagues, I still consult with him about baseball and life. Turtle was always tough on us all in college, but it paid of for many of us who have made it to the big leagues. A lot of hitting in baseball has to do with being prepared mentally and Turtle taught me in college how to be mentally tough. I can't tell you how appreciative I am of everything he's ever done for me." -- Aubrey Huff, Current Baltimore Orioles outfielder
"Turtle Thomas is the best coach I've ever seen in 1-on-1 situations. He was very effective working with our hitters and had a noticeable impact on our offense. A tremendous pickup for ASU." -- Hall of Fame coach Skip Bertman
"When I speak about loyalty, I think about Turtle Thomas. Turtle possesses a great knowledge of the game of baseball and has a passion for the players he coaches. Helping young players improve and succeed is very important to him, and his enthusiasm for his players is extremely evident." -- Former LSU head coach, Smoke Laval