March 2011

Flock of Road Games

Road trip to Sarasota today to play the Orioles.  If you are on the travel roster, better be at Bright House Field for the 9 a.m. bus departure.  Players will dress and shower in Sarasota and then bus back to Clearwater, a tentative 6 p.m. arrival.  Those who are not on the travel roster will have part of the day off. 

Saturday is another split-squad day for the Phillies, one group will play the Pirates in Bradenton while the other will be at Bright House Field to take on the Rays.  Game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet and

That morning, starting at 8:45, the Spring Training USA Brunch will take place at Bright House Field.  125 Phillies fans are on the trip, one of three for the month.

Sunday, long ride south to Ft. Myers, this time to face the Twins.  Bus departure is 7:45 a.m.  With daylight savings kicking in at 2 a.m. on Sunday, what are the chances a player or two will miss the bus because they forget to move their clocks ahead?  Another telecast in Philly, this one on WPHL

Both games will be broadcast on 12110 AM, the Big talker, as well as the Phillies radio network and 

Sunday, the Legends Game will be played at Bright House field at 5:30 p.m., an event hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. A number of Phillies Alumni will be there. 

That evening, John Brazer, Director of Publicity, will broadcast live from Bright House Field on WBCB in Levittown, PA.

Phillies are on the road again Monday (Kissimmee) and Tuesday (Dunedin).  Wednesday is a day off.  But, if you are looking for some free baseball, minor league games begin on Monday at the Carpenter Field Complex.  Two games are on the schedule each day, 1 p.m. starts.

One day, the AAA and AA squads will play (Blue Jays on Monday) and the next day, two Class A squads will be there (Pirates on Tuesday).  Don’t be surprised if some of the big league Phillies make an appearance in these games.

Alumni Memories
Opening day is fast approaching.  We’ve asked Phillies Alumni for their most memorable opening day moment, minor leagues or majors.

Jim Eisenreich, (OF, 1993-96)
“1993, my first with the Phillies.  We opened the season in Houston and I was not in the lineup but since my teammate who was going to start overslept, I was inserted in right field.  I remember making a catch down the right field line–it was actually a foul ball–but heard some fan comments about not being bad for an ‘old guy.’  We won the game which was the most important part of the day.”


Meet Opie

If you’ve had a chance to make it down to Spring Training or to a regular season Threshers game, chances are you have seen Opie Cheek hard at work. Since 1988, Opie has worked on the grounds crew in Clearwater and currently serves as the head groundskeeper.

Cheek’s day usually starts at 7:00 a.m. His first stop is to the coach’s office to meet with Rich Dubee and get the daily itinerary. For game days, Opie and his four other employees start dragging the warning track, cutting the infield grass, chalking the lines and watering the infield in time for BP that starts at 10 a.m.

His crew also has to make sure the half-field and bullpen areas are ready (The half-field is located adjacent to the player parking lot).  Every morning, pitchers use the half-field for fielding drills while the hitters are working on the regular field.

After BP, Opie’s crew has to leaf-rake the warning track to pick up all the gum and sunflower seeds discarded during BP. Once BP ends, the crew gets the field ready for game time. During the game, the infield gets dragged at the top of the 3rd and top of the 6th. After the game, the crew has to make sure all fields are good to go for the next day.

Opie often watches J Roll and the starting pitcher to see whether their actions indicate that the dirt needs hardening or softening. If they are constantly “pawing” the dirt, his crew will spring into action at the appropriate time.

In 2005, the Threshers gave away a “Opie Cheek Bobbinghead Doll”, the first honor ever bestowed on a groundskeeper at any level. When Mike Schmidt tried to tease Opie the next day about the giveaway, Cheek responded, “All my bobbing head dolls are gone but we still have a palette full of yours left over”!

Back to Bright House Field for a game with the Yankees on Thursday.  Game will be televised in Philly (The Comcast Network) and also . . . WIP’s morning show will be broadcasting live from the Tiki Bar Thursday and Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., with Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, Rhea Hughes, Joe Conklin and producer Joe Weachter . . . Mike Gill from 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City will be broadcasting both days from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., also at the Tiki Bar . . . . . . . Group of Phillies sponsors arrives in camp Thursday for the weekend . . . Orientation will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday for all minor leaguers.  They will gather on the Steve Carlton field for introductions of the entire minor league staff and numerous club executives.  David Montgomery, Ruben and Charlie will speak as will Chuck LaMar . . . According to February rankings, Phillies Insider is 20th among the top 50 blog on, the MLB Pros category.  Thanks goes to you for that ranking . . . Todd Zolecki continues to hold down the top spot among Beat Writers, which is great news.

Alumni Memories
Opening day is fast approaching.  We’ve asked Alumni for their most memorable opening day moment, minor leagues or majors.  From time to time we will post their memories.

Jim Bunning (RHP, 1965-67; 19970-71): “Pitching and winning the first game in Veterans Stadium in 1971 and beating my old manager, Gene Mauch.”


(John Brazer, Director, Publicity, contributed to today’s blog).

Bike Club

Every morning, one can see four bicycles parked against the batting cage fence beyond the left field wall at Bright House Field. 

The bikes belong to Dane Sardinha, Tagg Bozied, Joel Naughton and Matt Rizzotti, four minor leaguers in the Phillies big league camp. When Dane reported to camp this year, he walked a mile from La Quinta Hotel on Route 19 to Bright House Field. Knowing that Target was only a few miles away, he made the trek to the store and bought a bike for $100.

On his ride into work the next day, he saw three young players walking from their apartment to the ballpark. Sardinha told the guys the merits of riding. The next day, the Bike Club officially took root.

Sardinha looks at it this way, “It’s cheap on gas and there’s no insurance. After spring training, I’ll either leave the bike with one of the kids playing at Clearwater or throw it in a container and ship to Lehigh Valley”.

managed the Phillies split squad Sunday in Lakeland, spent the night in his Winter Haven home and met the Phillies in Tampa for their Monday afternoon game against the Yankees . . . Player bus left Bright House Field at 9:45 this morning.  Players were dressed for the game and will return to Bright House Field to change and shower after the game . . . Orioles come to Clearwater on Tuesday afternoon; game will be broadcast on by Scott Franzke and Chris Wheeler . . . When the Pirates were in Clearwater on Saturday, there were three former Phillies managers in the park, Dallas Green, Jim Fregosi (Atlanta scout) and Nick Leyva (Pirates third base coach) . . . Hard to believe but three weeks from today, the Phillies will head north . . . Mike Missanelli will be broadcasting live on 97.5 The Fanatic from the Tiki Bar both today and Tuesday, 2 p.m.-7 p.m. . . . Tuesday morning, the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) will speak to the players in the clubhouse.  BAT is an organization that provides financial assistance to those in baseball who are in need.  Many players donate to the worthwhile cause.

(John Brazer, Director, Publicity, contributed to today’s blog).



Clearwater Weekend

Meet Joe Cynar.  His office: second floor of the Paul Owens Clubhouse at the Carpenter Complex.  His title: Manager, Minor League Equipment and Florida Training Complex Operations.  His job: his title tells it all.  Right now he is making sure 162 minor league players have the proper equipment for the first camp workout on Sunday.

Throughout spring training, Charlie and Dubee may ask for extra players from the minor league camp on a day-by-day basis.  Once those names have been identified, Joe then e-mails those in the big league camp.  His early morning e-mail today:

“The following players will be joining the major league club for today’s game against the Pirates: RHP Matt Anderson (#89) and RHP Jason Grilli (#93).”

So, Matt and Jason were at Bright House Field for the 9:30 a.m. bus departure for a trip south to Bradenton for a game with the Pirates.

Early this morning (like 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.), 92.5 WXTU and Wired 96.5 radio did live radio broadcasts from the Tiki Bar at Bright House Field.  Roy Oswalt, Kyle Kendrick and David Herndon were guests on both shows.

Back Home
Phillies return to Clearwater for a Saturday game against the Pirates and a Sunday game against a Rays split squad . . . Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen will be on the air both days.  Yep, back-to-back work days for the two broadcasters . . . Sunday is also on WPHT TV (MyPhil), with Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler and Gary Mathews . . . Both games are also on . . . Following Sunday’s game, fans can also tune in to WBCB AM (1490) out of Levittown to listen to a show hosted by John Brazer and Ricky Bottalico.  That show can also be heard on WBCB’s website.

Mike Schmidt
departs camp on Saturday . . . Phillies will have a couple of foursomes in Monday’s Robin Roberts Memorial Golf Tournament at the Temple Terrace, FL, Golf and Country Club, where Robbie was a regular.  Last game Robbie saw was at Bright House Field last spring training.  He passed away in May . . . Yet another Philadelphia radio station will be in camp for a live broadcast on Monday: the Fanatic Mike Missanelli Radio Show (950 AM) from Tiki Bar, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Appreciative Alumni
As mentioned earlier this week, RHP Nick Strincevich, who pitched for the Phillies in 1948, celebrated his 96th birthday in Valparaiso, IN.  A year ago, the Phillies sent him a #36 jersey with his name on the back.  This year, a Phillies cap and a special Alumni birthday card.

His daughter, Carol Perino, sent a touching e-mail to the Phillies:

“Let me start by saying that the Phillies’ regard for “Jumbo” is very touching.  He is doing well, currently in a nursing home near my house in Valparaiso.  He still has a remarkable sense of humor and when we kid him about being ready for spring training, he will show us how to grip the ball for various pitches. And while his memory may be fading, mementos like the beautiful Phillies jersey and cap bring a smile to his face.”


Cole Dazzles

Today’s game was in Ft Myers…the longest bus trip of this year’s spring training.

As per MLB rules, teams must bring at least three starters to every road game. For this trip, the veterans were hoping that their name wasn’t posted on the board. Victorino, Brown and Francisco along with Cole were picked for this 2 1/2 hour trip south. Cole dazzled in his outing.

For the rest of the players that didn’t have to board the 7:45 a.m. bus, they still trickled in early in the morning to eat breakfast, hit the weight room or do other pre-field activities. Team stretching started at 9:30 at Bright House Field. At 10:00 a.m., the hitters took BP while the pitchers long tossed then before working on fielding drills on the back field. After the drills, the pitchers took to the batting cages for a friendly hitting competition.

Around noon, the players mostly dispersed after a long morning of workouts. As for the guys who traveled, the estimated time back to Clearwater will be around 7:00 p.m.

The team tomorrow has a shorter bus trip to Bradenton (about 45 minutes) to take on the Pirates.  Game will be broadcast on with Tom McCarthy and Gary Matthews.

Just a reminder about the Honorary Bat Girl Contest being sponsored by MLB and the Phillies. Open to ladies 18 and over.

(John Brazer, Director of Publicity, contributed to today’s blog).



But Trip Thursdy

When the 59 players arrive in the clubhouse each morning, the first thing they do is check “the board”. The board consists of a dry eraser board that lists the time the players need to be dressed and the precise stretching time on the field. An adjacent corkboard lists daily and weekly assignments.

Every Monday, Rich Dubee posts a sheet that has the daily pitching assignments in order of their appearance for each game of the week. Also listed is the roster of backup pitchers for each game as well as the pitchers that must do side work. The corkboard also has a big lineup card, posted daily by bench coach Pete Mackanin, which lists the starting lineup and the available hitters on the bench.

For road games, Mackanin posts a roster of the travelling party the day before. Bus time for the traveling squad and strech time for the players staying back are listed in bold next to the roster.

Frank Coppenbarger, the Director of Team Travel & Clubhouse Services, leaves 30 minutes after the bus leaves to serve as a safety net in case a bat, uniform, mitt or player is left behind. Coppenbarger often leaves each game in the 4th inning to bring back the batting practice laundry.

On Thursday, the Phillies head south to Ft. Myers to face the Red Sox.  Two buses will depart from Bright House Field at 7:45 a.m. Players will dress and shower in Ft. Myers

Over the next couple of days, 162 players will be in the minor league camp, training at the Carpenter Complex.  The camp ends with games on April 2 . . . Thursday’s game from Ft. Myers will be broadcast on, Scott Franzke and Chris Wheeler . . . WIP’s Howard Eskin and Ike Reese will be live with their radio broadcast from the Tiki Bar, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Excited Celebrity
On Tuesday, the Oak Ridge Boys sang the anthem at Bright House Field.  Joe Bonsall, a native Philadelphian and huge Phillies fan, e-mailed his reaction:

“You know common logic would say that when you get into your 60’s you might lose a little enthusiasm for things of childhood past. But for ME, THAT is just not the case. I have heard Phillies and Clearwater mentioned in the same breath since I was a kid but until Tuesday I had NEVER been there. Seeing my Phillies and singing the anthem was just as exciting to me as ever before.”

Joe, Richard Sterban and Duane Allen, three of the quartet, will be in Ft. Myers on Thursday to see the Phillies.

(John Brazer, Director of Publicity, contributed to today’s blog).

Celebrity Visitors

The legendary Oak Ridge Boys stopped in Clearwater to sing the National Anthem today. On Monday night, they played in Tallahassee but made a stop at Bright House Field before their show tonight in Lakeland.

Since two of the band members hail from the Philly area, they couldn’t have been more excited to perform in front of their beloved Phillies. Richard Sterban (Camden, NJ) and Joe Bonsall (from the Kensington & Allegheny area) were joined by fellow bandmates William Lee Golden and Duane Allen. Country star Billy Dean also accompanied them on the field.

Before they sang, Charlie Manuel introduced himself. Charlie told them that he has been listening to them for years. He also mentioned that his son listens constantly to the Oak Ridge Boys. First base coach Sam Perlozzo also got a chance to meet the band. After singing the National Anthem, the guys walked in front of the Phillies dugout and shook hands with a bunch of players. The highlight for Bonsall and Sterban was meeting Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.  

Phillies have two games, well sort of, on Wednesday . . . Orioles visit Bright House Field for a 1 p.m. Grapefruit League game . . . At 10 in the morning, the Blue Jays and Phillies  meet in a “B” game at the Carpenter Complex . . . Orioles game will be broadcast on by Jim Jackson and Chris Wheeler . . . The Howard Eskin and Ike Reese Show on WIP 610 AM out of Philly will be live from the Tiki Bar from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday . . . Reese will throw out the first ball for the Orioles game  . . . Phillies minor league staff holds its first meeting on Wednesday in the Paul Owens Clubhouse meeting room.  Players report on Thursday.  Minor league games at the Carpenter Complex will be March 14 through April 2.

Special Birthday Wishes
Go to RHP Nick Strincevich, who pitched for the Phillies in 1948.  He turns 96 today, which matches OF Alex Pitko as the oldest living Phillies Alumni.   Strincevich was released by the Phillies 6/11/48 to make room for a rookie right-handed pitcher named Robin Roberts.  Nick was the last player to wear #36 before Robbie.

(John Brazer, Director of Publicity for the Fightins’, contributed to today’s blog)