ST. PETERSBURG - Outfielder Tommy Pham had no apologies or regrets Saturday for his recent comments saying the Rays had "really no fan base,'' and said he was not concerned about any backlash.
Instead, Pham made a plea, albeit more politely, for more fans to support the team.
"When you’re a team of our caliber it would be nice - because I do envision us winning - to have more fan support at our games,'' Pham said during an appearance at the team’s Fan Fest at Tropicana Field.
"I’m appreciative for the fans that we do have. ... I do think it would be good for the team because a lot of these guys are young and they’ve never had the experience yet of playing in that kind of environment.''
Pham did often end enjoyed the benefits of doing so while playing four-plus seasons in St. Louis before being traded on July 31 to the Rays, who drew an average of 14,259. That comparison was the crux of his controversial comments in an MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM last December while he was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all," Pham said in the interview. "St. Louis, they're one of the few teams to where day in and day out they have 40,000 fans at every game.
"That's something that I miss, because even here in the Dominican they have a strong fan base for the team I'm playing for. Their fans are very supportive, they're loud. And the Rays? They just don't have that.''
Pham said he was mad at the MLB Network Radio staff for breaking out that quote, which was pushed out on social media, when it was part of a longer interview.
"I said a lot of good things about Tampa, playing here and the team,'' he said. "And the one question from that interview that wasn’t particularly me talking great about the organization, that one question gets sensationalized.''
In the radio interview, Pham also called the lack of fan support “a huge problem” and said he felt "something has to happen, whether it be a new ballpark, maybe a new city.'' That issue is already a popular topic as Rays officials have spent years trying to get a new stadium built and if that fails could look to leave the area after its agreement to play at the Trop ends following the 2027 season.
Pham said he was “not concerned” about fans holding the negative comments against him.
"No, not at all,'' he said. "Granted, you know the truth hurts. But like I said I am appreciative of the fans we do have.
"I saw a lot of familiar faces at the games last year and I even handed out game-used memorabilia to a lot of familiar faces. I remember the kids that I saw regularly I handed off gloves and bats. I don’t think one possibly truthful sentence would jeopardize me as a player, my contributions, what I do for the team.''
Pham also said he was quite pleased to have won his arbitration case against the Rays, making a $4.1 million salary for this season rather than $3.5 million.
"It’s always good to be on the winning side of that because I would have been devastated if I lost, and that’s just the truth,'' he said.