Lest we be accused of being a bunch of Debbie Downers over here at GC, we want to make it clear that we love a classic feel good story. You know, like the chick who went from homeless to accounting grad and the former accountant who found her joy peeing in bottles. These kinds of stories are few and far between in the wonderful world of debits and credits but today's story is about always following your dreams, even if you're prepared to settle for the minor leagues of life after years and years of waiting patiently for your dream to materialize.
33-year-old Rich Thompson had an impressive collection of stats while playing baseball for James Madison University in the late 90s and was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. Sounds promising right? Not so much. He ended up playing for Toronto's Low-A affiliate the Queens Kings and spent the next few years bouncing around the minors until he finally got his first major league start for the Kansas City Royals at 25. With his mom, wife, sister and uncle all supporting him from the stands the night he entered his first major league game in 10th inning as a pinch runner, Thompson stole second and scored the winning run. Sadly, after just one more game for the Royals, Thompson was kicked back down to the minors where he lingered for the next 8 years.
Between seasons, he sold home mortgages over the phone and worked as a caddy. At some point in 2008 – maybe when all hope of ever making it big in the majors had been drained from his crushed little soul – Thompson got real and accepted that his dream might never come true. Accounting classes seemed the natural next step for a man who spent his entire life working toward his dream only to be kicked in the teeth by fate year after year:
He began to consider, for the first time, life without baseball, and he decided to take classes in accounting. Three weeks later the Phillies were calling, and he had a job again. "We were always hopeful and expecting that he'd get another chance, but that had lasted for about five years" — until around 2008, says Teresa. "After that, I think he was just playing because he loved what he was doing."
You see where this is going, right? It certainly isn't fame and fortune in the major leagues. So Thompson kept plugging away, finished up his accounting education and passed the CPA exam. Just as he was about to trade himself out of baseball and into a minor-leagues-of-life job he'd been offered by a Tampa Bay accounting firm, Thompson got called to the majors in May of 2012. Not even a full day later, he was pinch running for the Rays.
By June, he was sent to the Triple-A Durham Bulls.
Used to disappointment by this point, he wasn't expecting to be called up for September but the Rays wanted him back.
As for that accounting degree, Thompson's wife deserves some kind of wife MVP award for her undying support of her husband and his dream, even if it was clear this was never really going anywhere. Sure, he's pretty much too old by now to stick out this baseball thing much longer but sounds like that firm in Tampa Bay is going to have to hope to recruit him next season… or the season after that… or the season after that. I mean really, how long can this guy keep this up?
Is this the beginning, or is this the end? "At the start of the year," says Teresa, "I didn't know what he was going to do after this year, because he passed the CPA exam, he was going to be done with the classes he needs for his master's by December. I really didn't know if he's going to re-sign to play, or just become an accountant. Then all this happened."
Earlier this summer Thompson was offered a job with an accounting firm in Tampa. The other day he came home and started talking to Teresa about it. After all these years, though, the wife knows better. "He may act like it's a possibility, and I know he's always prepared to walk away from the game if he needed to or if we needed to make ends meet," she says. "But he just loves it. He's just so happy playing it. I can't imagine him not playing."
"Somebody in someone's front office was going to have to tell me it was time to go home," he told ESPN. Otherwise? "I wasn't going home on my own." Oh he's going to fit in just fine in a cube with that fancy accounting degree.
So you see, kids, the moral of the story here is NEVER GIVE UP, even when you're giving up. Or something.