February 2011

Doc 1st on the mound

When Bright House Field security guard Ron Holzwarth opened the gate for Roy Halladay at 4:45 this morning, the start of the 2011 baseball season officially began.

The Phillies are one of 11 teams to open today for pitchers and catchers. Judging by the list of local and national media in attendance, it’s easy to see that the Phillies are the “story” of spring training. 

The clubhouse in Clearwater opens every day to the media at 8 a.m. At 8:01, the clubhouse was packed. The local writers milled around the clubhouse catching up with the players they cover on a regular basis including Todd Zolecki (MLB.com), Jim Salisbury (CSNPHILLY.COM), Bob Brookover and Matt Gelb (Inquirer), Paul Hagen, Bill Conlin and David Murphy (Daily News), Ryan Lawrence (Delco Times), Mandy Housenick (The Morning Call), Anthony San Filippo (Trenton Times) and David Hale (Wilmington News Journal). 

Local TV personalities lined up their first interviews of the Spring including Beasley Reece (CBS), Michael Barkann (CSN), Jamie Apody (ABC), John Clark (NBC) and Anthony Gargano (Fox). Gargano will also be broadcasting his radio show on WIP live from the Tiki Bar this week. Michael Smerconish from WPHT interviewed Charlie Manuel, Brad Lidge and Frank Coppenbarger (Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services). Jack O’Rourke from KYW Radio is marking his 15th year covering the team.

On a national basis, the list is impressive…Jayson Stark and Buster Olney (ESPN.com), Gary Smith and Jon Heyman (Sports Illustrated), Hal Bodley (MLB.com), Scott Miller (CBSSports.com), Seth Livingstone (USA Today), Matt Yallof (MLB Network), Ken Davidoff (Newsday), Ken Rosenthal (FOX), Jeff Passan (Yahoo! Sports), Tyler Kepner (NY Times), Kevin Kernan (NY Post) and Dave Sheinen (Washington Post).

At 10:01 a.m., a pop was heard when a baseball met a newly broken-in glove. Pitching coach Rich Dubee has divided his pitchers into four groups.  Groups 1 and 2 threw off seven bullpen mounds at Carpenter Field.  Doc was the first of the starters to throw.  Since Doc has been working out in Clearwater for most of the winter, it was no surprise that he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.  Cole replaced Doc on the hill and also threw effortlessly. 

The most humorous moment came when Gulf Coast League manager Roly deArmas was pressed into action behind the plate.  It was Roly’s misfortunate to be the one catching former Tigers pitcher, Eddie Bonine, who features a knuckleball. It brought to mind that Bob Uecker used to say the best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.

Following the workout, the overflow media contingent turned the Bright House Field lunchroom into a full blown conference as RCRCJ (Roy, Cliff, Roy, Cole, Joe) talked about the high expectations everyone has for this staff. Complete coverage is on phillies.com.

All in all it was a very busy first day here in Clearwater, much more hype than the 10 other camps that opened today.  Spring has officially arrived!
(Contributors today were John Brazer (Director, Publicity) and Scott Palmer (Director, Public Affairs) for the Phillies.  Palmer’s video interviews are on phillies.com, Monday through Fridays).

Buzz to intensify

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee as a free agent, a buzz spread throughout baseball, the media and fans.  That buzz will intensify when pitchers and catchers take the field to begin spring training on Monday.

The Phillies’ Communications Department is going to be busy fielding media requests for the starting rotation.  Photo op requests have already come from the New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Philadelphia Magazine.  That’s the tip of the iceberg.

Following Monday’s first workout, the Phillies have issued a media alert that Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, Lee and Blanton will be available as a group in the media lunchroom at Bright House Field. It will be the one time the rotation will be together for the media.  Individual one-on-ones will be accommodated as spring training unfolds.

Weighing media demands vs. allowing the pitchers (or players, for that matter) to get in their daily work is a challenge the Communications Department faces.  Priority must go to the daily schedules of the players. There will be occasions when a media request will be denied, creating an issue.  Somehow the world will continue spinning.

Charlie, Ruben and their respective staffs will begin meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the meeting room at the Carpenter Field Clubhouse.  They’ll discuss each of the 59 players in camp.  Sunday afternoon is reserved for a golf outing for the staffs, their lone break from being on the field every day until the season opener.

Comcast Sportsnet’s Daily News Live Show will be live from Bright House Field starting on Monday.  They’ll be on the air starting at 5 p.m. daily through Friday, the 18th . . . Comcast SportsNet and the Major League Baseball Network will carry Monday’s media session with the starting pitchers live . . . First Philly radio personality in camp will be Mike Smerconish of The Big Talker.  He’ll be there Monday afternoon getting interviews for his shows . . . KYW News Radio will once again be represented by the veteran (kind word for being old) Jack O’Rourke.  He’ll be filing daily reports throughout the spring.  His first report always starts with the equipment truck’s blaring air horn when the truck arrives at Bright House Field, which was last Sunday.  Yes, he’s there early for that major event. Tough assignment . . . Cliff Lee is being inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Friday night . . . Ruben will be the April cover story for the South Jersey Magazine . . . FanFest at Bright House is being discontinued.  Each year, the Phillies raised funds for charities in Clearwater through the FanFest.  Good news: the fund-raising efforts will continue through auctions during the Grapefruit League season . . . In last month’s ratings, Phillies Insider ranked 17th among the top 50 MLB Pro blogs on MLB.com.  Thanks for your support.

(Phillies Insider will be posted daily starting on Monday.  Contributing to the blog will be members of the Communications Department.  Scott Palmer’s daily video reports from Clearwater will also begin on Monday on phillies.com).

Sales are booming

Good news, the equipment truck arrived on time in Clearwater on Sunday and the clubhouse crew is busy organizing the lockers for 59 players that will be in camp.  It all starts on Monday with pitchers and catchers.

Meanwhile, ticket sales are booming in both in Philly and Clearwater. 

3-game pack plans went on sale today in Philly.  “Between our sold-out season ticket base of 28,500, group sales and 6-game pack sales to date, we’ve already sold 3.1 million tickets for the season,” explained John Weber, VP of Sales and Ticket Operations.  “Our remaining inventory is limited and we encourage fans to take advantage of these game packs while they last.”

Down in Clearwater, ticket sales have topped 108,000, which is 20,000 ahead of last year’s record pace. 

Just think, 10 years ago, the Phillies drew 1,782,045 at the Vet.  The spring, the total attendance in Clearwater’s Jack Russell Stadium was 60,019.

Special Alumni Birthdays
Tomorrow, RHP Freddy Schmidt and 2B Ford Mullen.

Schmidt, who pitched for the Phillies in 1947, will turn 95, making him the third oldest Phillie (Alex Pitko is 96 and Nick Strincevich, 96 on March 1).

Mullen, nicknamed “Moon” by a Philadelphia sportswriter in 1944, the only season in which he wore a Phillies uniform.  He’ll be 94.

Late last month, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, wrote a feature on Mullen, who lives in Stanwood, WA, and who is the oldest living major leaguer in that state.   He and his wife, Jessie, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last November. 

Mullen’s salary with the Phillies was $5,000.00.  Playing minor league baseball for the Seattle Rainiers, he and Jessie picked up the Seattle newspaper one morning in September 1943 and saw a headline, “Mullen sold to the Phillies.”  “We didn’t know anything about it,” he told Larry Stone.  He was the Phillies regular second baseman in 1944 and then was drafted following that season.  He never played in the majors again.

Thanks to Larry Stone, we were able to come up with an address for Mullen.  We hadn’t been able to locate him.  Last year, we sent a Phillies jersey to each Alumni 90 or older.  Happy to report a Mullen #2 Phillies jersey is due to arrive today as a special Happy Birthday.

Clearwater Bound

It would be kind of difficult to play a baseball game at Citizens Bank Park today.  For one, the temperature isn’t conducive to the summer game.  Secondly, the beautiful green grass field has a thick white blanket of snow on top of it.  And, there’s no video board high above the left field stands.  Hot dogs right now are frozen.

Would be kind of hard to steal second base because second base isn’t visable.  Also, you would need to use orange baseballs.  White ones would disappear.

Relax.  Charlie stuck his head out of his Florida home yesterday morning and didn’t see his shadow.  So, spring training will start in 11 more days!

A more realistic sign that spring training is right around the corner is the Phillies clubhouse.  Each of the 46 lockers is completely empty.  Boxes, suit cases, duffle bags and large red trunks are everywhere.  Starting early tomorrow morning the clubhouse crew will be moving everything on to a 53-foot trailer that will carry the items to Bright House Field in Clearwater.  Sunday is unpacking day in the south.

Here’s a sample:
**15 cases of gum (regular and sugarless)
**12 cases of sunflower seeds
**20 coolers and a half pallet of POWERade mix
**250 batting practice tops
**300 helmets
**350 pair of shorts
**450 pair of socks
**600 pair of pants
**600 hats
**200 fleeces
**1,200 bats
**2,000 t-shirts
**10,000 12 oz. cups
**15,000 baseballs
**150 pairs of batting gloves
**5 bicycles

Notice, there are no pinstriped uniform jerseys.  During spring training, the Phillies will wear their red BP tops.  Oh, several pinstripe jerseys will be available for the Communications Department and their annual media/licensing photo day.  Players will don the white jerseys for the cameras.

Soon the sound of snow shovels will be replaced by the crack of the bat.  How comforting.

J-Roll Rolls On

At 32 years of age, Jimmy Rollins is the dean of the Phillies.  Or, Granddaddy, if you will. Yep, he’s been around longer than anyone else on the team.  In 2011, he’s headed for his 11th consecutive full season.
Only Larry Bowa has patrolled shortstop longer for the Phillies, 12 seasons, 1970-81.
Not surprisingly, J-Roll is putting his mark on Phillies all-time records, 12 different categories, to be specific:
Games: 10th (1,494)
At-Bats: 6th (6,291)
Runs: 4th (993)
Hits: 6th (1,714)
Singles: 8th (1,096)
Doubles: 3rd (366)
Triples: 4th (98)
Total bases: 6th (2,738)
Extra-base hits: 5th (618)
Strikeouts: 10th (797)
Stolen bases: 4th (343)
When his Phillies days are over, he’ll be ranked higher in each category.  Needless to say, he will be a future inductee into the Phillies Wall of Fame.