It's been 20 years since Tommy Thompson was a manager in the Chicago White Sox organization.
Baseball is still baseball, but he's been having some back-to-the-future moments as he catches up with how technology has changed the game over the years.
"I texted (recently) for the first time, and I'm 53 years old," said Thompson, the first-year manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators. "I had to get a Blackberry phone. Somebody put me on Facebook, but I don't know how to get on there (myself). I'm learning a lot more computer skills."
Don't expect to find Thompson on Twitter anytime soon.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Still, he would be glad to tell you how good he thinks this year's team can be.
With a strong pitching staff and some pop in a few bats, Thompson believes Kannapolis can compete for the championship of the 14-city South Atlantic League (a "low" Class A minor league), if the team gels.
Thompson managed and coached in the White Sox farm system from 1988 through 1991, then spent the next 16 years as the organization's roving catching instructor.
During three years away from the White Sox, Thompson managed the Baltimore Orioles' Carolina League ("high" Class A) affiliate in Frederick, Md., to a championship.
Starting with the right arm of Jake Petricka, Thompson said, all five of his starting pitchers "have the potential to be a major-league starter, (although) I'm not sure if they will be used as a starter in the major leagues."
Petricka was Chicago's second-round pick in last year's first-year player draft. Baseball America ranks him the seventh-best White Sox prospect.
Petricka posted a 3.04 earned run average between Bristol (at the advanced rookie level) and Kannapolis in 2010. Petricka will share the rotation with fellow right-handers Ryan Buch, Matt Heidenreich and Kevin Moran and lefty Spencer Arroyo. All but Arroyo spent some time in Kannapolis last season.
Last year's third-round selection, Addison Reed, will be the bullpen's top gun.
Serving as the group's backstop will be highly touted Mike Blanke, who was the team MVP at Great Falls (advanced rookie level) last year.
"He's big on everybody's list - all the coaches, all the scouts in the organization," Thompson said. "He was kind of a steal last year in the 14th round. He has all the tools to be an everyday catcher in the major leagues."
Having hit seven homers in just 62 games last season, Blanke should be one of the Intimidators' heavy hitters.
Another big hitting prospect is leftfielder Brady Shoemaker, who belted 12 homers and 23 doubles for Kannapolis in 2010 despite arm trouble.
Centerfielder Trayce Thompson is another former second-round draft pick (2009) and "can do it all," Tommy Thompson said. Trayce Thompson's father, Mychal, was the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA draft in 1978 and won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite missing 71 games because of a fractured hand after being hit by a pitch, Trayce Thompson still collected eight homers last year. Rounding out the outfield will be right-fielders Kenny Gilbert and Ryan Hamme.
In the infield, Rafael Vera and Dan Black will split time at first and share designated-hitter duties with backup catcher Kevin Dubler. At second base, Ross Wilson will be switching from shortstop, where he played at Great Falls last season.
On the left side of the infield will be shortstop Kyle Eveland, who, like Gilbert, was signed from an independent league. Juan Silverio returns for the Intimidators at third base and is also capable of hitting for power (seven homers in 2010).
Tommy Thompson said he'll manage the 2011 Intimidators with dual styles. He likes giving players the freedom to steal bases on their own and swing at pitches with a 3-0 count, but he said he gives his teams the structure and discipline to be successful.
The team was scheduled to open the season on the road against the Lakewood (N.J.) Blueclaws on Thursday. Kannapolis' home opener is set for this Friday, when it hosts Hickory.