Dad in Prison, Legally Blind in 1 Eye, Guess Where He Is Now?

How often do we hear people say that they are who they are or what they are because of their situation in life? They were either born into a situation they can’t get out of or circumstances happen that keeps them from being able to make anything of themselves.

What about a boy, who only met his biological father twice, once when he was four years old and the second time when he was twelve. Both times, he visited his father in prison. The boy, is of black American, Vietnamese and white American descent, born in Las Vegas. Situation ethics would say that this boy is destined to be a typical problem kid.

To make matters worse, he suffers from keratoconus, a relatively rare degenerative eye disorder. As young adult, he is legally blind in his left eye and must wear special contact lenses in order to see. Just changes in lighting conditions can affect his vision, and sometimes forces him to change contact lenses, just to function.

This boy and his sister were raised by their mother in Spring Valley, Nevada, a suburb on the west-southwest side of Las Vegas. With his father in prison most of his life, his mother had to work just to provide for herself and her two kids.

Again, situation ethics said everything was against this boy. Between his dad in prison, raised basically by a single working mom and who had a rare degenerative eye condition that has left him legally blind in one eye, his fate was pretty much sealed, or was it.

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There was one thing that no one counted on. The boy had dreams, goals and was determined to make something of himself, despite his situation. He worked hard and never gave up.

While attending Durango High School, he went out for the school’s baseball team as a pitcher and infielder. His work ethic was phenomenal and he worked to overcome his degenerative eye disease. His hard work paid off and as a senior in high school, he was named the Class 4A All-State Player of the Year, and as a second team All-American. How good was this boy in high school? He finished with a .633 batting average and his fastball was clocked at 93 mph, which is unreal for a high school player. However, he was losing interest in pitching and concentrated his efforts on playing the infield.

He made it to college and played baseball for Cal State Fullerton. In 2006, this kid from a very bad situation and degenerative eye disease was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. His first few years with the Cardinals organization, the young had more bad luck with a series of injuries. He broke his wrist in 2010 and tore a ligament while fielding a ball in 2011. In 2013, he suffered a torn labrum, a cartilaginous ligament in the shoulder.

This would have been bad enough to end the careers and dreams of many a young man, but not the kid from Spring Valley. He continued to rehab and work hard. In 2014, he played for the Cardinals’ AAA Memphis team where he batted .324 with a .395 on-base percentage, a .491 slugging percentage, scored 63 runs, hit 16 doubles, 6 triples, 10 home runs and batted in 44 runs, all in just 104 games.

On September 7, 2014, his years of hard work, perseverance, determination and dreams paid off as he was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals, for his Major League Debut. He has bounced back and forth from the minor leagues to the big league.

His name is Tommy Pham and so far this year, at age 29, he is still playing with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .289 with an on-base percentage of .381. He has hit 10 home runs this year, batted in 29 runs and scored 38 runs.

Yes, he still has problems with his vision, but Pham has persevered and is living the dream of being a Major League Baseball Player. He has literally defied all the odds that were stacked against him and could easily have sat back and said, woe is me because of my family and vision, but didn’t. He could be making excuses that would seem justifiable to most, but he didn’t. He chose to rise above his circumstances, not wallow in them.

Tommy Pham should be an inspiration to everyone, especially those who are born into bad or rough situations. Not everyone will end up as a professional baseball player, but with hard work and determination, a person can climb out of their bad situation and make something of themselves. It takes determination and hard work, but in the end, it’s worth it, as Tommy Pham will tell you.


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