Three days after taking the mound for the team’s home opener against the Staten Island FerryHawks last month and departing without being involved in the decision, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs veteran hurler and pitching coach Daryl Thompson was honored by the club for his 10 years of service and dedication to the club and community.
Before the start of the April 30 game against the visiting Kentucky Genomes, eventually won by the Blue Crabs 16-2 for their seventh straight triumph, Thompson was recognized by General Manager Courtney Knichel, Manager Stan Cliburn and bench coach Joe Walsh for his longtime contributions to the team and the community while nearly 20 members of his family and friends watched from one of the suites at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Thompson was not on the mound for that game, but when the contest ended and the smoke from the postgame fireworks blanketed the playing field, he was among the last Blue Crabs to head to the clubhouse. As he has done for over a decade as a member of the Southern Maryland squad, Thompson graciously signed autographs for dozens of fans four hours after the pregame ceremonies which included the unveiling of “Daryl Thompson Drive” leading to the stadium.
“It was much more than I expected,” Thompson said. “I don’t get choked up too often, but when they unveiled the Daryl Thompson Drive sign outside the stadium I really started to get emotional. It was a special moment, something I just never expected, he said. “Having my parents here and a number of family members and other close friends here just made the whole night even that much more special.”
Thompson arrived this season as the two-time defending Atlantic League of Professional Baseball pitcher of the year for 2019 and 2021 — there was no season in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic — and the league’s all-time leader in wins (75) and strikeouts (849). Thompson (1-1) added to his win total last weekend, but the La Plata High School graduate and former major league hurler was honored by the team for far more than his measurable statistics.
“Daryl deserves everything that he received tonight,” Cliburn said after the April 30 game. “You’re never going to meet another person that works harder on his craft and still takes time to help everyone else around him. He’s a special person. People see what he does every time he goes to the mound, but they don’t see what he does the other four days when he works with our other pitchers.”
Walsh recalled a game at Lancaster six years ago when Thompson was in the midst of a one-hit shutout but he had already eclipsed 120 pitches through eight innings. Walsh wanted to hook Thompson for a reliever, but the La Plata graduate vehemently objected so Walsh, after conferring with Cliburn, opted to allow his ace to complete the game.
“It was 40 degrees and an April game and sweat was just pouring off of him and he was over 120 pitches,” Walsh said. “So, I wanted to take him out but he really vehemently objected, so Stan told me to let him finish. He’s always been a great competitor, but he’s going to make a great coach somewhere, someday when he finally decides to hang up his cleats.”
Thompson, who will turn 37 in November, admitted that he has not given any serious thought to retiring at the end of the season but he knows that decision is somewhere on the horizon.
“One day I will look back and savor a lot of these moments and accolades,” Thompson said. “But for now my thoughts are always on the next day and the next game. I still have fun playing this game and being in the clubhouse with these guys and my focus every year is being the last team standing and being able to win a championship.”