Pham with the Cardinals in 2017
|Tampa Bay Rays – No. 29|
Born: March 8, 1988|
Las Vegas, Nevada
|September 9, 2014, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2018 season)
|Runs batted in||171|
Thomas James Pham (born March 8, 1988) is an American professional baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he made his MLB debut on September 9, 2014. Pham bats and throws right-handed, stands 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighs 210 pounds (95 kg).
A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, the Cardinals selected Pham in the 16th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He overcame a number of injuries and vision impairments related to keratoconus to make his major league debut nine seasons after being drafted. In 2017, Pham became the first Cardinals batter since 1900 to record at least a .300 batting average, 20 home runs, 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases in the same season.
Early life and amateur career
Thomas James Pham was born on March 8, 1988, in Las Vegas, Nevada, to Tawana, aged 17 and Anhtuan, aged 19. He is the elder of fraternal twins, comprised with sister Brittany, whose birth occurred two minutes after his. At the time of their birth, Anhtuan was incarcerated, as he would be for most of their lives. Anhtuan was born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and an African American father and moved to the United States with his father, mother, brother and sister. Anhtuan excelled at American football but became entangled in drugs and street crime.
Tawana's parents agreed to assist her in raising her twins with the condition that she work. She had not finished high school and got a job as a busser, then as a server. She also got a second job at a bakery. Between the ages of 2 years and 3 1⁄2 years, Tommy wore leg braces; the pediatrician feared that he had contracted rickets. When Pham and Brittany were five years old, Tawana married an electrician named Fred Polk and they had a daughter named Mercedes.
Pham attended Durango High School in Spring Valley, Nevada, where he played baseball as a pitcher and infielder. As a senior, Pham was named the Class 4A All-State Player of the Year by the Reno Gazette-Journal and a second team All-American after finishing with a .633 batting average. With a fastball that reached 93 miles per hour (150 km/h), he drew more interest as a pitching prospect, but wanted to play the field. He originally committed to play college baseball at Arizona before switching his choice to Cal State Fullerton. Ultimately, Pham opted for professional baseball over college after the St. Louis Cardinals selected him in the 16th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He received a $325,000 signing bonus, higher than most players drafted as late as the 16th round.
The start to Tommy Pham's professional baseball career has taken a number of detours due to injury. He suffered a broken wrist in 2010. In a 2011 game while attempting to deny a home run ball, he tore a ligament. He played 40 games and batted .294. In early 2012, while diving for a baseball, Pham noticed a pop in his shoulder. The opinion of team doctors was that it was not serious. He continued play but it worsened, and later examination showed a torn labrum, costing him nearly all of the season. After promotion to AAA Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 2013, he tore his other labrum. He returned to Springfield after rehabilitation and batted .301 in 45 games. Pham played most of the 2014 season for Memphis, appearing in 104 games, and he batted .324 with a .395 on-base percentage (OBP), .491 slugging percentage (SLG), 63 runs scored, 16 doubles, six triples, 10 home runs (HR) and 44 runs batted in (RBI).
St. Louis Cardinals
He opened the next season with Memphis but missed the first two months with a quadriceps injury. On June 9, Pham hit two home runs and a career-high five RBI against the Iowa Cubs. In his first 24 games after returning from the disabled list, he batted .338 with a .402 OBP, .625 SLG, five home runs and 21 RBI. The Cardinals recalled him to the major league club on July 3, 2015, and he was influential in a 2–1 victory over the San Diego Padres the next day. He doubled for his first major league hit, then, later in the game, pilfered his first stolen base and scored the winning run, his first major league run. On July 5, Pham hit his first major league home run the day after collecting his first major league hit. He hit another double that game, and drove in all three of the Cardinals' runs – also his first three major league RBI – as the Cardinals again defeated the Padres, 3–1.
On September 16, Pham tripled and had his first multi-home run game against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 5–4 victory. He had actually homered in three consecutive plate appearances spanning his last at bat previous to the game, September 13 against the Cincinnati Reds. In the next game against the Brewers, Pham's line drive ricocheted off the head of starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson. Although Nelson had to leave the game, he was able to walk off the field in his own ability, and a magnetic resonance image (MRI) revealed a contusion. Pham doubled and tripled in this game, giving him six hits and eight RBI in consecutive games against Milwaukee. He homered in a 4–3 win over the Chicago Cubs on September 20, and drove in two of the runs in a 3–1 win over the Reds on September 22. The Cardinals won 100 games and the National League Central division. Pham made his major league postseason debut as a pinch hitter during the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2015 National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Cubs, and hit his first career home run against Jon Lester.
The Cardinals selected Pham for the Opening Day roster in 2016. However, he injured his oblique in his first at bat on Opening Day, in the first inning versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. Thus, he was the first player following the start of the regular season to be placed on the DL. The club reactivated him from the DL on May 17 and optioned him back to Memphis. His home run on August 2 against the Cincinnati Reds was the Cardinals' 11th pinch hit home run of the season, establishing a new club record.
Pham did not make the 2017 Opening Day roster out of spring training, and he began the season at Memphis. After batting .283/.371/.500 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 25 games at Memphis, he was recalled to join the Cardinals on May 5.
On May 7, 2017, Pham homered twice versus the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park among producing a season-high four hits. His second home run provided the deciding runs in a 6−4, 14-inning victory. Pham continued to produce both offensively and defensively, and he eventually became the starting right fielder. Through August 12, he was batting .309/401/.498, while leading the club in steals and outfield assists. He finished the season batting .306/.411/.520 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs, 22 doubles, and 25 stolen bases in 128 games. He became the first Cardinals batter since 1900 to record at least a .300 average, 20 home runs, 20 doubles, and 20 stolen bases in the same season. In his age-29 season, Pham placed tenth in the majors in Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He ranked 11th in the National League Most Valuable Player Award (NL MVP) voting, the only Cardinals player to receive votes.
Pham's at-times dominant performance frequently conjured the portmanteau "Pham-tastic," from others as well as himself. Pham readily spoke positively of his aspirations and his efforts, believing that he 'can be a really elite player,’ and disclosing that he disciplined himself with intense workout regimens and used to technology such as Statcast data to assist in sharpening and increasing his playing skills.
In the aftermath of his breakout season, the Cardinals named Pham their starting center fielder prior to the 2018 season, resulting in 2017's starting center fielder, Dexter Fowler, moving to right field. While practicing between at bats with a batting cage modified with a resistance band Pham had designed on April 25, the band slipped from the bat, resulting in blunt trauma to Pham's head that induced a significant contusion. Manager Mike Matheny removed him from the game. He was not placed on the disabled list, and he returned to action a few games later.
Tampa Bay Rays
On July 31, 2018, Pham was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with $500K of international pool space for Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera, and Roel Ramirez. At the time of the trade, Pham was batting .248 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs. Following the trade, he stated, "I'm just disappointed. I wanted to give more. I wanted to give more, from a playing perspective. I got involved in the community. I really enjoyed being able to do that. But I wish I had given more. I had an opportunity here. They gave me a chance," and "It hurts, specifically for me because I've been underperforming from my expectations. I feel like if I had just done my job better, we wouldn't be so far down in the standings."
In Pham's second game as a Ray, Pham fractured his foot after being hit by a pitch and was forced to go on the 10-day disabled list. The Rays activated Pham from the 10-day disabled list on August 16, and he recorded his first two hits as a Ray that night in a game against the New York Yankees. On August 25, Pham hit his first home run in a Rays uniform, a solo shot off Brandon Workman of the Boston Red Sox. Pham ended the season with a 32 game on-base streak, seven games short of Johnny Damon's team record. Pham was named to the MLB team of the month for September where he hit .368/.407/.705 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in. In 39 games for the Rays, he hit .343/.448/.622 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs.
Pham is both of African American and Vietnamese heritage. He is the first person of Vietnamese descent to play in Major League Baseball since pitcher Danny Graves. He and his twin sister were raised by their working mother, Tawana, in Spring Valley, Nevada.
Pham suffers from keratoconus, a rare eye disorder which causes degenerative vision problems. It was not until Pham began wearing contact lenses in 2009 that he became able to track pitches to the best of his ability.
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