The minor league grind has paid off for Ka’ai Tom.
Tom, a 2012 Saint Louis graduate, started his college baseball career at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas before transferring to the University of Kentucky. After an all-SEC season, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft by Cleveland’s baseball franchise and signed for a bonus of $250,000. But after six years without appearing in the majors, Tom was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and latched on with the Oakland Athletics last December.
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Tom impressed early and often during spring training, as the outfielder hit 9-for-28 with a home run, a triple and two doubles, good for a .321 batting average. On Monday, he was named to Oakland’s initial 26-man roster for opening day. The Athletics will open their 2021 season Thursday against the Houston Astros for a four-game series.
Tom join four other players with Hawaii ties on an MLB opening day roster.
- Hawaii legend Kolten Wong will officially begin his ninth MLB season and first with the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
- Mid-Pacific alum Isiah Kiner-Falefa gets his shot to be the everyday shortstop for the Texas Rangers, starting on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals.
- Year 15 for Baldwin product and grizzled MLB veteran Kurt Suzuki begins on Thursday as the Los Angeles Angels take on the Chicago White Sox. It will be Suzuki’s first season with the Angels after a two-year run with the Washington Nationals.
- Hawaii alum Josh Rojas is set to begin his third MLB season with his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks after a torrid spring training in which he was the hits leader across the entire league.
A few other players with Hawaii ties are on the brink of reaching the MLB, whether it be for the first time or a return to the show.
- Punahou alum KJ Harrison will begin the 2021 season with the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
- Hawaii product Quintin Torres-Costa will likely begin the 2021 season in Triple-A after getting a invite to big league spring training for the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Former Saint Louis standout Jordan Yamamoto will start off 2021 with the Syracuse Mets, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets. Yamamoto was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Mets organization over the offseason.
- Waiakea alum Kean Wong, the younger brother of Kolten Wong, will begin the 2021 season with the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Angels.
Meanwhile, UH alum Greg Garcia was released by the Detroit Tigers organization on Friday after signing a minor league contract with the franchise in February.