Tampa Bay Nights: The Ballad of Rich Thompson


As a man in his mid-30s, the story of Rich Thompson hits close to home for me.

There are days I still dream of playing professional baseball, of digging into the batter’s box against a big league pitcher, of getting up on a pitcher’s mound and staring down a big league hitter.

Of course, reality is what it is. Being a professional baseball player was a dream that died when I was 10. But it’s always inspiring when someone close to my age lives out that dream and finds his way to the Show.

Which brings us to the remarkable tale of Rich Thompson. Traded by the Phillies organization this week to the Tampa Bay Rays, the 33-year Reading, PA native has gotten plenty of press thanks to his remarkable return to the big leagues.

First, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb did a terrific piece on Thompson’s journey, followed by a column by Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Kaduk, both of which are great reads. Long story short, Thompson’s lone stint in the Majors before this week was with the Kansas City Royals back in 2004 when he was 25 years old. He was a September call-up, playing in only six games, with just one plate appearance.

Fast forward eight years. This week, Thompson was traded from the LeHigh Valley Iron Pigs to the Tampa Bay Rays, who called him up to the big club to serve as an extra outfielder. Then, last Thursday night, Thompson got the moment he’d waited his whole life for. And he didn’t disappoint.

How long will Thompson’s dream last with the Rays? Probably not terribly long. But he’s proving that perseverance can pay dividends once in a while, and that old dudes like me are sitting at home in their leather reclining chairs watching Kyle Kendrick pitch for a reason.

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This just in, Reading first baseman Darin Ruf is still destroying the baseball down in AA, hitting .353/.407/.553 for an OPS of .960, with 7 HRs and 31 RBIs. Even more interesting, Ruf has been starting some games in left field this week, and as you may have heard, left field has been somewhat of a problem for the Phillies. And while there is a left fielder of some note in LeHigh Valley, he’s having a bit of a problem staying on the field.

R-Phils’ second baseman Cesar Hernandez is also continuing to hit well, at .322/.368/.441 for an OPS of .809, with 12 2Bs and 20 RBIs. And Trevor May is still going strong, at 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.12. Julio Rodriguez is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and a WHIP of 1.28. Reading appears to be stocked with some pretty good talent at the moment.

Also, keep an eye on Clearwater third baseman Cody Asche, who leads the team in at bats (148), hits (54), and batting average (.365). He also has an on base percentage of .392, a slugging percentage of .507 and an OPS of .899.

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Oh, and one final note…

I’m fascinated how athletes are always challenging themselves, psyching themselves up, and posting inspirational messages on Twitter. Trevor May is no different…

I’m not sure which is weirder. Wanting to teach a pig to fist pump or wanting to meet Meta World Peace. Both are things I never want to do.

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