After a 13-year professional baseball career, former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Rich Thompson is going from playing America’s favorite pastime to competing in American Ninja Warrior.
Thompson had quite the interesting baseball career. While mostly a minor league mainstay, Thompson reached the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2004, but was mostly used as a pinch runner and his only at-bat came against catcher Tim Laker on April 20, 2004. Laker, a back-up catcher, only on the mound because his Cleveland Indians were losing 15-5 in an early season game. He grounded Thompson into a double play that day.
For eight years, Thompson went through Triple-A being 0-1 against a backup catcher. He finally reached the show again with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012 was stuck around long enough to experience the MLB Fan Cave in it’s inaugural year.
His baseball career ended with a broken foot while trying to make a play in the outfield in a minor league game in Durham in 2013. Since then, Thompson settled into a new career in business as a public accountant with KPMG. Thompson said that since he was working long hours in his new job and no longer preparing for the baseball season, he wasn’t in his best shape.
With the help of a training regimen that put heavy emphasis in pull ups and dead hangs, Thompson managed to get himself in prime shape to pass the American Ninja Warrior tryouts and enter in the Miami Regionals for this current season. Thompson said that the competition was filled with mid-sized individuals who both light enough and strong enough to handle the upper body intensive course. Much of the overall field contained Olympic gymnasts like Jonathan Horton, who like fellow University of Oklahoma teammate and American Olympian Jake Dalton, have biceps bigger than that of NFL linebackers.
Thompson’s competition in Miami consist of local stuntman who wears a Jabawoki mask, a man in a diaper, a pro wakeboarding legend, and “The Spartan”. Through all the platform hopping and curtain swinging — something he admitted that was “nothing I ever trained for” — he made it to the regional finals, which will be aired on NBC Monday July 28, on 9 p.m. ET.
Thompson said that his career in professional baseball trained him to perform under pressure and made being in front of a crowd normal. A great deal of people like to dismiss baseball players as athletes when they compare the Adonis looking LeBron James to a pudgy power hitter like Miguel Cabrera. Thompson’s performance in this form of athletic competition would shut up them all up, even if none of their nonsense ever reached him.
“I never heard negative perceptions about a baseball players athletic ability,” Thompson said. “A lot of people think hitting a round ball with a round bat is one of the hardest things to do in sports.”
Despite showing that he is healthy enough and more than athletic enough to play baseball professionally again, Thompson said that his participation in American Ninja Warrior does not signal a comeback.
“It was just a fun way to compete at something and see what I was capable of,” Thompson said.
If Thompson makes it through the Miami finals, he’ll go to Las Vegas to compete for the American Ninja Warrior Season 6’s championship.