It took Tommy Pham nine years to make his Major League debut for the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Friday night during the Cardinals Caravan at the Farm Bureau Center, the first question asked to Pham came from a kid who hasn't been alive that long.
The 8-year-old fan asked what advice he'd give him as a player. He answered, "Believe in yourself. You have to be your biggest fan."
Pham kept believing in himself and is coming off his most successful season in the big leagues. He made time Friday for some of the people that kept believing in him: the fans.
About 200 fans gathered for a Q&A and autograph session during the first of three Mid-Missouri stops on the Cardinals Caravan. Outfielder Harrison Bader, pitcher Jack Flaherty, third baseman Patrick Wisdom, former Cardinals Kerry Robinson and Brad Thompson, and broadcasters John Rooney and Mike Claiborne also made up the group.
"From my time coming up there's been a few people that have always supported me," Pham said. "And the fans, a lot of fans, were some of the people I'm speaking about."
It only took Bader until his third year with St. Louis to reach the majors, and Pham was there setting an example for players like him.
"Definitely look up to Tommy Pham," Bader said prior to the event. "He's just a really good example of somebody who just stuck with it, kept playing, kept playing his game and then obviously got a chance last year to slide in a role and have an incredible season. Looking up to somebody like that, it just goes to show you that the game is never over and you're never out of it."
Bader also said he looks up to Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
Flaherty and Wisdom are at the point where they are still trying to work their way into a significant role with the major league club.
Flaherty also pointed to Wainwright as a positive influence.
"That's somebody that I've always kind of looked forward to sitting down and talking with," Flaherty said. "It's never a bad thing to be able to be around somebody like him."
And it's never a bad thing when fans and players get the chance to interact, either.
Questions asked Friday ranged from where the players live to what their favorite part of being a Cardinal is. There were even requests to destroy the Cubs and take down the Yankees.
"The questions can be off the wall," Wisdom said. "If you go out and listen they have some random questions, but it's fun. It's kind of refreshing to hear those quirky questions as opposed to the baseball questions."
Sometimes autograph sessions can get a little quirky as well.
"There's been babies signed before," Pham said. "Nothing too crazy for me, just the babies. Some stuff that people really kind of prides within themselves like a collection or a hat that their grandpa had that they had such and such sign that they passed it down."
It took Pham a while to get to this point of his career, so he said he's glad to share his time with the fans.
"It's always fun to see little kids and the smiles on their faces from meeting players that they admire," he said.