MiLB, Palm Beach Cardinals Launch "The Nine" and Recognize Outstanding Black Players
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club. Minor League Baseball announced the launch of “The Nine,” a new, Black-community focused outreach platform specifically designed to honor
In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February, teams across Minor League Baseball are taking a look back at five of the best Black players to suit up for their club.
Minor League Baseball announced the launch of “The Nine,” a new, Black-community focused outreach platform specifically designed to honor and celebrate the historic impact numerous Black baseball pioneers made on the sport. The initiative aims to provide new opportunities for youth baseball and softball participation, while further diversifying the business of baseball that embraces millions of passionate fans.
While some of these standout performers went on to long and illustrious Major League careers, others simply had great Minor League careers or, in some cases, just one incredible season that went down as “a year for the ages.”
Here is a look at five of the best Black baseball players ever to suit up for the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Tommy Pham was a Cardinal, both for the big league club in St. Louis and as a coveted prospect in the minor league system. Selected by the Redbirds in the 16th round of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft, the outfielder reached Palm Beach in 2008.
The Las Vegas native spent parts of three seasons with the Beach Birds, including all of 2009. He slashed .232/.313/.378 that year, following that up with a .262/.377/.392 line in 68 games in 2010. Pham also hit 12 homers across his 209 total games with Palm Beach before earning a promotion to Double-A Springfield midway through ‘10.
Pham would reach the majors with a callup to St. Louis in 2014, the same season he was named a St. Louis Cardinals Minor League All-Star. The right-handed slugger would remain in St. Louis until midway through 2018.
After the Cardinals took Xavier Scruggs in the 19th round of the 2008 draft, the first baseman spent 2010 and 2011 with Palm Beach and stood out for his power. Scruggs hit 34 homers in 204 total games with the club. After compiling an OPS of .834 in ‘11, the California native was promoted to Double-A Springfield.
Scruggs earned a call to the majors in 2014 while also spending 2015 in St. Louis. The then 28-year-old did not return to MLB after 2016, instead finishing his career with stints in the Korean and Mexican leagues. In 2021, he returned to the Cardinals as the organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant while also taking an analyst position at ESPN.
Hailing from Pensacola, Fla., Adron Chambers was selected in the 38th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by St. Louis out of Pensacola State College. The lefty reached Class-A Advanced in 2009, spending the entire season with Palm Beach. He sported a .284/.370/.400 slash line in the Florida State League before earning a promotion to Double-A Springfield ahead of 2010.
Chambers is perhaps best known for his role in the 2011 World Series championship run for the Cardinals. The outfielder only saw action in 18 regular season games for the club, but accumulated a .375 batting average during that stretch. Chambers scored the game-winning run as a pinch runner against the Chicago Cubs on September 24, helping the team clinch a playoff berth by a single game. The Cardinals would beat the Texas Rangers in a thrilling seven-game World Series one month later, bringing the franchise its 11th world title.
Sam Freeman was another major leaguer who went through Palm Beach on his way to ‘The Show.’ Selected by the Cardinals in the 32nd round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Kansas, he only appeared in a single game for Palm Beach after spending most of the season in the Rookie Leagues.
Freeman stood out as a member of the Florida State League club in 2009, where in 26 appearances, the relief pitcher boasted a 1.64 ERA and a 0.939 WHIP.
The native of Houston recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2010 before earning a callup to St. Louis in 2012. He spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals and would remain a major leaguer through 2020.
Maikel Cleto was signed as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic. The right-handed pitcher was part of a trade to the Cardinals organization in 2011 after spending time as a prospect for both the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners. In five starts for Palm Beach, Cleto accumulated a 2.48 ERA and a WHIP of 1.034 in 2011. The impressive numbers helped earn him a promotion to Double-A Springfield, before being called up directly to the majors in June.
Cleto would spend time with both the Cardinals and Chicago White Sox from 2011-14, where he saw action in 41 big league matchups as a relief pitcher.