Thornton looks back at prep playing days

Editor's note: Jerry Crasnick caught up with Chicago White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, a graduate of Centreville (Mich.) High School. Thornton talked about his experiences playing at the prep level:

Favorite high school memory:

"My home baseball field was right next to the county fair grounds, and the left field fence had barbed wire on top, because the county jail was on the other side. You'd be out in left field, and they had a little garden where the guys in jail would be outside working while you were playing baseball.

"I think dead center field was about 700 feet away. The ballpark was definitely my favorite memory.''

Most embarrassing high school memory?
"I never really did anything goofy baseball-wise. Maybe the silk shirt I used to wear to school. Looking back, that was pretty embarrassing.''

If you weren't a major leaguer, what would you be doing?
"Probably teaching and coaching. Basketball was my No. 1 sport. I always worked at camps, and I went to college at Grand Valley State on a basketball scholarship. I always played baseball just for fun.''

If you had one piece of advice for a ballplayer in high school, what would it be?
"Try to learn the game. Try to know as much as you can, and see situations before they happen. It's almost like playing chess. As a hitter, recognize what the pitcher is trying to do to you. It's a big mind game.''

Who's the best high school player you've ever played against?
"Bryan Cranson. He was a left-handed pitcher who was a year behind me. He went to Bronson High School. He was a really good pitcher with a pure left-handed swing, and I really think I ruined his baseball career.

"He was also good at basketball, and they were a rival of ours. He tried to block my shot from behind, and I went up two-handed and popped his shoulder out. He was never right after that pitching-wise.''

(For the record, Cranson went to the University of Michigan and was selected by the L.A. Dodgers in the 39th round of the 1996 draft, but he never made it to the majors.)

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" has been published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.