In the 19th round of the draft, the Cardinals selected Thomas Francisco. I was fortunate enough to speak with Thomas about joining the team.
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted 21 players in this year’s draft. In the 19th round, they picked Thomas Francisco out of East Carolina University. As a junior this season, Francisco helped lead the Pirates to a 44-17 record. They were able to host and win regionals in the postseason, before losing two close games against eventual runner-up Vanderbilt Commodores in the super regional round.
Hitting in the second spot of the order and starting at first base as a junior, Francisco hit .354, swatted 13 home runs, and only struck out 23 times. A versatile left-handed bat, the Cardinals did well to add him to their system in the late-rounds.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Thomas after he officially signed with the Cardinals. We discussed his connection to the Cardinals growing up, his advanced approach as a ballplayer, and what the next steps are for this summer.
Some responses were edited for clarity.
Where were you when you got drafted and how was the experience?
So I had just gotten back from one of my best friends’ wedding. I stopped by Hilton Head on my way home because my family was there. I was just in the living room and that’s when I found out. It was really exciting– the whole process was crazy with the way the draft went this year, but I was just excited to land with the Cardinals
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Did you know a lot about the Cardinals coming into the draft?
My older brother is a diehard Cardinal fan, so my whole life that was the only team I ever heard about. Just because he’s such a diehard fan– he was so jacked up that I ended up going with the Cardinals. Because of that, I know quite a lot about the team.
Have you been to St. Louis or Busch Stadium before?
I have not. But I’m really excited to get it going with the Cardinals. Our goal is always to win a championship every year, so I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to play there.
Is there anyone in the organization you’re looking forward to meeting?
Oh I mean there are so many people– recently I’ve been working with Jose Oquendo. That’s been kind of a surreal thing. He’s worked with me in the infield. That’s a guy who played everywhere back with the Cardinals, coached third base. He’s respected by so many people, so that’s one guy I’ve been very fortunate to work with. Really there are so many Cardinal greats, I just want to meet as many of them as I can.
The Cardinals drafted a batter from ECU last season (Pick 70, outfielder Alec Burleson). Have you reached out to him about joining the same professional organization?
Yeah- me and Burly played with each other for two years. I’ve talked to him quite a few times, just kinda getting to know more about the organization and how it works. He’s on a tear right now, really killing it, so hope he keeps it up.
So where are you now and what is the plan for this summer now that you’ve officially signed with the team?
So right now I’m down at the Spring Training complex. They said that by the end of the week the team will assign us to either the Palm Beach Low-A roster or to the FCL [Florida Complex League, formerly the Gulf Coast League]. Just kinda waiting around to see where I’ll be, but mostly just excited to start playing.
Last year was difficult for a lot of college athletes– how did it affect you not being able to play the full season?
Yeah, you know, that was kind of a crazy time. There were bigger things than baseball going on in the world. Obviously we wish we could have finished the rest of the season, but throughout the COVID year I was still working out. My dad is a high school baseball coach so I had access to facilities and he worked with me through the off-time. But I’m glad we’re back on the field.
Coming from a successful college program at Eastern Carolina, are there any highlights that stand out in your mind?
Yeah, I loved my time at ECU. Coach [Cliff] Godwin runs an amazing program– winning regionals my freshman year and my junior year were really special moments. That stuff doesn’t happen every year, so being able to host both of those events were probably my most favorite memories.
How would you describe your game?
I would say that my calling card is I’m a hitter– I hit for average, and power, but my big thing is I walk more than I strikeout. My goal is to have more extra-base hits than strikeouts. That’s just my approach as an offensive player. With defense, I can play really anywhere. I think the Cardinals are going to start me off at first base, but I can move to the corner outfield, I can play third if necessary. Anywhere I can play to help the team, I’ll be there.
I want to thank Thomas again for taking some time for this interview, and wish him all the best as he begins his career as a professional ballplayer. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Busch Stadium soon!