While growing up in Los Angeles, Derrel Thomas idolized Dodgers star Maury Wills. His pure athleticism and tremendous versatility became Derrel's trademark and served as a testament to his adaptability and knowledge of the game. During his 15 year major league career, Derrel played every position in the major leagues except pitch and wore 7 different team uniforms. His career began as the number one overall pick in the January 1969 draft by the Houston Astros. Called up to the big leagues at the end of his third pro season in baseball, he was then traded to the San Diego Padres in 1972. After spending three years with the Padres, he was traded once again this time to the San Francisco Giants in a controversial trade that involved the popular Giants second baseman Tito Fuentes. Derrel electrified the Candlestick Park faithful from 1975 to 1977. He could do it all and he did. Fans watched the familiar number 30 throw out base runners, roam the outfield and turn double plays. But it was his "basket catches" that earned him his fame, and reminded baseball fans across the U.S. of legendary Willie Mays. After spending another year in San Diego with the Padres in 1978, Derrel went to the Dodgers as a free agent, where he would eventually wear the same uniform of his childhood idol Maury Wills. As a Dodger, Derrel competed in two League Championship Series and played on a World Championship Team. In the 1981 World Series alone, Derrel played 5 games and 3 different positions ( shortstop, centerfield, and third base.)
In 1984, Derrel relocated once again via free agent this time to the Montreal Expos. As an Expo, he played alongside such greats as Pete Rose, Gary Carter, and Andre Dawson no to mention Tim Raines. But his international experience was cut short as Derrel was dealt to the Angels in the American League. In 1985 the last season of Derrel's major league career was spent with the Philadelphia Phillies.During the 15 seasons spent in the major leagues, Derrel Thomas collected 1143 hits and stole 149 bases and belted 43 homeruns. His versatility as a player has translated into success as a coach as Well. Derrel started coaching as an assistant at Los Angeles City College and moved on to the pro ranks as a manager with the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League for part of one season. Also coached at Leuzinger High School, Dorsey High his alma mater and returned to LA City College in 1989. Continuing his coaching career he went back to professional baseball with the new independent Western Baseball League which began operating in 1995. In 1996 Derrel became an instructor in the Cincinnati Reds organization for a year before returning to the Western League as the manager of the Tri City Posse in 1998.
In 1999 Derrel started a non-profit organization the California Winter League. The organization in the beginning was for the purpose of providing playing opportunities for minor league player during the winter months allowing players to play ball instead of getting jobs to maintain during those 4 to 5 month of down time. Things didn't workout in that respect so he focus on doing free baseball clinics for underprivileged and at risk youth.
Derrel also coaches a collegiate summer league team in the Western Baseball Association which is a member of the National Baseball Congress. The Rancho Belago Rockets have gone to Wichita twice to participate in the NBC World Series. Assisted by a former RBI participant and former major leaguer with the Boston Red Sox James Lofton the Rockets have won two division championships and one league championship. The Rancho Belago Rockets are located in Rancho Belago of Moreno Valley in Riverside County.