With the acquisition of outfielder Tommy Pham from the Tampa Bay Rays, the San Diego Padres improved their mental edge dramatically.
There were times in the last few seasons when the San Diego Padres were beaten down. Not by their opponent, but by themselves. The game of baseball is a grind. Even at the Major League level, preparing yourself and being able to play your best nightly is a daunting task.
Having someone in the clubhouse who can sense when a teammate isn’t putting in a full effort and call them out on it, is invaluable. Early in his career, Tommy Pham displays no issues in communicating his passion for the game to his teammates. “To a man, I know they all respect the way he plays really hard, and he cares,” McLaughlin said. “We all have quirks. Right? That’s Tommy. Tommy is going to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s just the way it goes. From Dan McLaughlin of Fox Sports Midwest when Pham was a Cardinal.
Last season, during the Rays’ late-season playoff push, the outfielder spoke in front of his teammates. He asked for more effort from all of them. Not that the team was dogging it, but he felt that they didn’t quite understand the importance of the season and how Tampa Bay had a chance for something special. “I don’t think everyone in this locker room kind of understands the situation that’s in front of us,’’ Pham said.“Before the game, I’m playing songs (mostly Jeezy) to get us hyped for this situation. I haven’t been in the postseason in a few seasons. It’s not easy. So just trying to take advantage of this opportunity.’’ Pham told the Tampa Bay Times last September. For a player to do that is rare- especially in this day and age of the game.
Pham had a very tough childhood growing up. He will candidly speak about the fact he had no father. The outfielder’s father was in jail when Pham was born. Tommy Pham and his twin sister Britney have only met the man twice. The elder Pham was a great athlete in the city of Las Vegas during his high school years, but got mixed up in the wrong crowd and began to start selling drugs. His father was paroled at one point but went back into prison almost immediately after being set free. He is in jail to this day, and the outfielder wishes not to have any contact with him.
This harsh reality of life gave Tommy Pham thick skin. His mother worked multiple jobs just to put food on the table for her family. The native of Nevada was not given the luxurious things that most kids covet. He was lucky even to get a gift on a birthday or Christmas. A few times, his mother did not have money for presents and communicated that to the child. It may have been tough to hear, but Pham says he admires the fact his mother was straight up with him. She was honest. Brutally honest. That same ability to speak what is on your mind is why teammates adore him. Pham pulls no punches in the clubhouse. He enjoys having fun, but when it comes down to business and playing the game the proper way- he brings an intensity that is rivaled by few. The slugger wore out his welcome in St. Louis despite putting up impressive numbers while playing for the Cardinals.
The team drafted the right-handed hitter in 2006 with a 16th round pick. He struggled through the minors in his first four seasons, never hitting over .232. At one point, he contemplated quitting. He battled through the rough years, though, and started to show promise as a 22-year-old. Injuries slowed him, however, as from 2010-12 as he suffered wrist, knee, and shoulder injuries in consecutive seasons. The last injury, a torn labrum, cost him the entire 2012 season after he played in just 12 games. This was a tough period for the outfielder who, once again, needed to dig deep.
It was early in 2014, and Pham called Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque to demand his release. “I said, ‘You know what, I’m the best mother—— on this team, and you guys don’t even know it,’” Pham explained. “I said those exact words. They told me things happen; I’ll get some at-bats. I just had to wear it.” Pham told ESPN. The outfielder produced in 2013 but was bypassed by other prospects when it came to being promoted to the Majors. He was frustrated and pulled no punches in speaking about what he wanted. The two sides made amends, and Phan produced an impressive rookie year in 2015 for St. Louis as he recorded a .824 OPS in 52 games. Despite the fantastic first impression in the Majors, Pham’s patience for the game was tested again as it took until the 2017 season for him to get consistent at-bats. He rewarded the team producing a .931 OPS in 128 games.
Tommy Pham has “grinded” his way to the success he now enjoys at the highest level of the game. He has overcome a litany of injuries throughout his career and a degenerative eye condition (keratoconus) that has made him legally blind in his left eye. Yes. He is legally blind in one eye. Does he complain? No. It is not in his nature to do that. “I believe in myself. I believe in my ability, just because I’m strong mentally,” Pham says. “I see a lot of guys in this game that mentally are weak. They crack. That’s not me.” Told USA Today Sports. There is no doubt that he has a tough mental edge when it comes to playing the game. The defeats of the game are not monumental to this man who has suffered through so much. The Padres will gain much from having this outfielder in the lockerroom.
The on-base machine is considered one of the best offensive outfielders in the league. He owns a career slash line of .277/.373/.472 with a .844 OPS in over 1,800 at-bats at the Major League level. In 2019, for the Rays, Pham recorded a 3.7 WAR and walked 81 times in 145 games. The 31-year-old will get on base for the Padres and will produce runs. The right-handed hitter will also lead this Padres team. He will be the one to call out the lazy play and demand more. In a 162-game season, that goes a very long way.
The Padres paid a hefty price for his services, but when you are attempting to compete now, you just have to pull the trigger and go for it.