Bleacher Report spotlights Cardinals standout Tommy Pham – including UMSL professor’s role in his success

Ed Bennett, Tommy Pham

Ed Bennett (left), a professor of optometry, shakes hands with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham last fall in the dugout at Busch Stadium. Bennett is one of four men who make up Pham’s team of eye specialists, helping him manage his vision as he deals with the effects of keratoconus. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Tommy Pham is on track to play a central role for the St. Louis Cardinals in the upcoming season.

The team is counting on the 29-year-old starting in center field and occupying a prominent place in the team’s lineup after he batted .306 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in one of the more unlikely breakout seasons in recent club history. It came after Pham spent parts of 12 seasons in the minor leagues and while he continues to be challenged by keratoconus, a condition that, over time, warps the smooth, curved surface of the cornea and hinders sight.

UMSL Magazine featured Ed Bennett, the professor of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and the small part he played in Pham’s success in its fall issue.

But with the Cardinals working out in Jupiter, Florida, and counting down to Opening Day, Pham’s story – and Bennett’s role – received national attention earlier this week in a story published by Bleacher Report.

“Miracle, I think, is the best term to describe him,” Bennett, who also serves as assistant dean for student services and alumni relations, told the website. “I’ve never known anybody else who played major league baseball with keratoconus. I don’t know how he sees the spin on the curveball, or fastballs. You’ve got aberrated eyes, distorted corneas…”

Bennett is one of four men who make up Pham’s team of eye specialists.

Bleacher Report highlighted a story Bennett had previously shared with UMSL Magazine. It happened during the All-Star break in 2016, and Pham was riding shotgun as he and Bennett drove to Iowa for a consultation with the inventor of a soft contact lens—one that, ultimately, didn’t end up working for him.

“During the trip, we talked books – all he reads is self-improvement books – and I said I do this StrengthsQuest exercise with my students,” Bennett told the website, referring to the online drill designed to help students discover and develop their talents. “I’m not even done telling him that, and he pulls his StrengthsQuest results out of his backpack.

“I’m thinking, man, if that doesn’t totally define Tommy Pham. He has a very bright, tremendous mental approach to the game. He is very intelligent. I don’t know if he has a PhD in life, but he’s had to overcome so many challenges. He’s always thinking.”

Learn more about Pham by reading the full Bleacher Report story here.

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