FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
NORMAN, Okla. – Aric Thomas is returning to the University of Oklahoma where he spent 11 seasons as a player and coach. Sooner Head Coach Sunny Golloway announced Thomas’ return to the staff on Saturday after he spent the last seven years as the head coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College. Thomas, who was previously an OU coach from 1996-2004, will work with the Sooners’ hitters.
“We are very excited about the appointment of Aric Thomas as our new staff member,” said Golloway who was on the staff with Thomas in 2004 and coached him at OU and in the Alaska Baseball League. “With his outstanding background and experience as a Sooner playing in Omaha and winning a national championship, along with coaching in the Alaska League, the Cape Cod League and directing Eastern Oklahoma State, we feel like it’s a perfect fit. After a thorough search, it became very apparent that Aric can help lead our players in the area of hitting in pursuit of a national championship.”
The hiring fills the void left by Mike Bell, who returned to his alma mater to serve as Florida State’s pitching coach on June 27. The addition also marks a change in duties for assistant coach Tim Tadlock, who spent the last six seasons as the OU hitting coach. Tadlock will now work with the Sooners’ pitching staff.
“I have the utmost respect and confidence in Tim Tadlock,” added Golloway. “With his extensive experience and success as a head coach and assistant coach, he is well rounded in all phases of the game. He is very excited to direct our pitchers as we move forward.”
Thomas recently completed his seventh season as the head coach at Eastern Oklahoma State College, where he also served as the athletic director for the last four years. In 2011, Thomas led the Mountaineers to the program’s second consecutive Region II Championship, a first in the program’s history. He was named the Region II Coach of the Year in 2011 as EOSC finished the campaign at 38-22 and appeared in the top 25 polls for the sixth straight season. In 2010, the Mountaineers won their first region title since 2001 after they posted a 37-22 mark.
“I am really excited for this opportunity and extremely grateful to Coach Golloway for wanting me for this position,” said Thomas. “I graduated and played here and I love the university and Norman. Clearly, after the run to Omaha in 2010 and winning 40 games each of the past three seasons, the program is in pretty good shape. Hopefully, we can get back to the world series every year, that’s the goal. That’s why I came back, to be a part of this program’s rich tradition again and help add to it.”
As a player, the Riverside, Calif, native was a key part of the Sooners’ 1994 National Championship team and the program’s return to the College World Series in 1995 when he was named a first team All-Big Eight outfielder. He was also part of Oklahoma’s staff from 1996-2004, serving as a volunteer coach, assistant coach and coordinator of baseball operations.
In seven seasons at the Eastern helm, Thomas posted a 237-159-1 (.598) overall record while guiding his offense to a .314 batting average in that span while also averaging 53 home runs and 134 stolen bases per season. From 2007-2009, the Mountaineers’ hitters hit over .330 in each of the three seasons and the 2008 squad set the program record for wins with 41.
During his tenure, ESOC baseball evolved into one of the nation’s top programs and became a catalyst for helping players move on to four-year universities and professional baseball. While Eastern was nationally ranked in six of his seven seasons at the helm, including five squads ranked in the top 15 in the country, Thomas has also coached 70 players that went on to sign at four-year universitites or play professional baseball. That includes seven players that were drafted by Major League Baseball teams and 38 others that moved on to Division I programs.
Recruiting was also a strong suit for Thomas at Eastern. In 2011, four of his recruits were selected in the 2011 MLB Draft, including the No. 1 high school player in the nation in Dylan Bundy, who recently signed with the Mountaineers.
“I enjoyed my seven years at Eastern and feel like I am a better coach since I was last at OU,” added Thomas. “I learned a lot as a head coach and athletic director and that experience will help me here on the field and in helping recruit players. I feel like my path is somewhat similar to Tim Tadlock, who I knew as a head coach when he was at Grayson College. I am really looking forward to working with him and the rest of the staff.”
Thomas’ coaching experience has also extended beyond Oklahoma’s borders as he was an assistant for the Brewster White Caps in the prestigious Cape Cod League in the summers of 1998 and 1999. His team won the Eastern Division title during his first year with the club. In 2004, Thomas was unanimously named Alaska Baseball League coach of the Year with the Peninsula Oilers.
During his coaching tenure, Thomas has coached or worked with several players that are currently listed on Major League Baseball rosters. Those players include three regular starters in 2011: Chase Utley (Phillies), Greg Dobbs (Marlins) and Jason Bartlett (Padres).
In 11 years as a part of the Oklahoma baseball family, assistant coach Aric Thomas has experienced a national championship, two NCAA College World Series, six NCAA Regionals and a Big 12 Conference Tournament championship. Thomas spent his first six years on the Oklahoma coaching staff as the team’s volunteer assistant before being elevated to full-time assistant at the conclusion of the 2001 season. During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, he mentored the Sooners’ offense and the outfielders. In 2004, Thomas took over the program’s position of Coordinator of Baseball Operations before moving to Eastern Oklahoma State College.
His coaching career started as a volunteer assistant on the OU staff in 1996 following a successful two-year stint as a player for the Sooners. Thomas helped guide OU to four NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s first conference tournament championship in 18 years with the 1997 Big 12 Conference Tournament title. During his young coaching career, Thomas had a hand in instructing nine All-Americans, eight all-district honorees, 13 first team all-conference selections and more than 20 players who signed professional contracts.
In the two seasons he lettered for the Sooners, Thomas was a member of OU’s back-to-back College World Series teams in 1994 and 1995 and hit .336 during his career with 61 stolen bases, the sixth best total in OU history, and 113 runs scored. Thomas was a first team All-Big Eight Conference selection as a senior and was named to the NCAA All-Midwest II Regional Team in 1995 after helping the Sooners tear through the tournament field with a perfect 4-0 mark. In fact, the Sooners recorded an 8-0 record in NCAA Regional play and were 12-2 in NCAA postseason competition during Thomas’ playing career. OU was 92-33 in his two seasons roaming the outfield.
Prior to arriving in Norman, Thomas played one year at Riverside Community College in California. One of the most talented players to emerge from the junior college powerhouse, Thomas captured junior college All-America honors in his only season and still appears among the RCC record books in a number of categories. Thomas continues to hold the school records for hits and stolen bases in a single game and stolen bases recorded in a single season.
Thomas began his college baseball career at the University of California at Riverside where he redshirted his first year and spent his freshman season. He transferred to RCC following his freshman year.
Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Oklahoma in 1995 and completed his Master’s in professional studies in education from Capella University in 2007. Thomas and his wife, Julie, of 11 years have two children Chloe Elizabeth (8) and Brett Nathan (4).