ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Watching Tony Thomas destroy baseballs in batting practice makes it all the more puzzling how he’s spent his entire 11-year career in the minor leagues before joining the Saints last year, most of it in Double-A and Triple-A.

Right on the cusp of a call up that never came.

“In 2012, I’ll never forget it, I was doing really well with the Red Sox, I was playing second base every day, and I remember, Dustin Pedroia slid back into first base, and like came out the game,” Thomas said. “And all my buddies were watching the game, I got voicemails like, you’re going up, you’re going up! But, I mean, Dustin Pedroia, he’s a grinder, only way he’s not playing is if he’s in a wheelchair.”

Pedroia didn’t go on the disabled list, and that’s the closest Thomas ever got.

“He played the next day,” Thomas said. “He was in there and played the next day, yeah.”

Having played in the minors for now 11 years, and yet never having reached the promised land, it’d be certainly understandable to see a scenario where Thomas would get frustrated and give up. But that is not in his nature.

(credit: CBS)

“I think it more drives me than bugs me. To know that I was that close, and I see myself getting better mainly because of my mental approach now,” he said.

“Honestly, because back home in the offseason I coach, I teach a lot of kids, give lessons and stuff. And those kids look up to me. So they actually motivate me, to keep pursuing my dreams.”

Now at 31, Thomas is playing as well as he ever has. He just made his second straight All-Star Game — a great chance to shine in front of lots of scouts. His dream remains the big leagues, but Thomas has it in perspective too.

“I get to play baseball for a living. I’m a grown man playing a kid’s sport,” he said.

“And the Saints keep giving me an opportunity to come out here and play baseball and I’m thankful for that, and I don’t know where my future might lead from here.”

Just maybe, the major leagues just yet