ST. PETERSBURG For 13 seasons in the minors, Rich Thompson has taken an endless journey of dreary late-night bus rides on the back roads of America and boarded early-morning commercial flights to small towns across the land all in search of a big-league dream.
Throughout his odyssey, Thompson had managed just one at-bat in the majors, grounding into a ninth-inning double-play as a pinch-hitter for the Kansas City Royals in April 2004.
But the lefthanded-hitting outfielder never stopped believing he could make it at baseball's top level, even as he and his wife Teresa raised their three young children the past seven years, and even as time seemed to be running out for the 33-year-old from Reading, Pa.
And this week, the long and often uncertain road took a sudden turn out of the shadows. The Tampa Bay Rays obtained Thompson in a trade on Wednesday from the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple club in Lehigh Valley in exchange for their own Triple-A outfielder, Kyle Hudson.