Citizens Bank Park is ready for season number 13. Hard to believe. Seems like just yesterday we opened the state of the art ballpark.
Yesterday morning the Phillies clubhouse was empty. That changed when the team returned last night.
Phillies final 25-man roster is due no later than 3 p.m. Sunday, the day before the Phillies open the season in Cincinnati. The two teams have met five previous times in Cincinnati in the season opener with the Reds leading, 3-2.
Change has been the theme since last season ended. It is evident in last year’s opening day lineup:
Change is also evident in the bullpen where Jeanmar Gomez is the lone returning reliever. It is evident in the starting rotation. The Phillies starting pitchers in their first four games last year were Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, David Buchanan and Jerome Williams. It is evident on the field where Pete had them playing better fundamental ball.
They finished Florida with a 15-10-3 record, their first winning spring since 21-14 in 2111. Granted spring training stats are out the window now but there was energy, enthusiasm and competition on the club. That’s change, too.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Wrapping up another spring training in Clearwater…….
We all know how entertaining the Phanatic can be. His best spring training performance was a pre-game fitness challenge in right field with Bautista of the Blue Jays. Got a ton of video play. You know, I’ve been watching the Phanatic since he arrived and he still makes me laugh. Every game.
Squeeze bunt plays in spring training? Don’t remember many but Pete did it four times this spring.
Best power display was Franco although Howard’s grand slam over the batter’s eye was something to see. I remember seeing home runs over the batter’s eye at Jack Russell Stadium but not Bright House Field.
The best arms were Velasquez among pitchers and Alfaro among position players.
Quinn was the fastest player. He can fly. He just needs to have a healthy full season and 450 at-bats.
Now that Bowa has reached 70, people wonder if he has matured. Well…..sort of. We’ll see how he handles the regular season.
Favorite restaurant? There are a ton of them in Clearwater and the area but my favorite remains Villa Gallace in Indian Rocks Beach. Outstanding Italian food.
Packing yesterday for the return trip home was a cruel reminder that spring training #45 for me was about to end. Arriving in Clearwater every spring is so special. I get excited every time I drive over the causeway into Clearwater, a place that has become a second home. You get a chance to spend time with friends again. The grass is greener, the weather warmer and there isn’t a better place to watch a game than Bright House Field. A full house there is such a beautiful sight.
The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits is the title of my new book published by Triumph Books. Larry Andersen wrote a hilarious foreword.
I’ll be signing:
**April 30, Main Point Books, 1041 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; 1-2 p.m.
**May 22, Citizens Bank Park, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
**May 26, Maris Grove Theatre, 200 Maris Grove Way, Glen Mills, PA; 2-3 p.m.
**August 14, Citizens Bank Park, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
More dates are forthcoming.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Beginning on Monday, Phillies Insider switches to five times per week. There’ll be commentary on the current team, the future and the past.
Forbes Magazine has selected Phillie Phanatic as baseball’s most popular mascot. Not surprising. This is a repeat honor by the magazine.
Guess what’s the #1 selling item at Citizens Bank Park? Well, it’s the Phanatic dangle hat.
Going to sneak in a plug for my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits. The last chapter is Behind the Scenes. Included is a story about the Phanatic. Here’s an excerpt peek:
“Thousands have worn a Phillies uniform in the major leagues. An equal number have worked behind the scenes throughout the years. So, who’s the most recognizable member of the Phillies organization? Got to be Phillie Phanatic. When you are 6-foot-6, 300 pounds with a 90” waist, white eyeballs, purple eyelashes, blue eyebrows, monster sized-shoes, extra-long beak, extra-long curled up tongue, gawking neck and your fur is bright green, you are easily recognizable. And memorable. And loved.
“The record shows this big, feathery creature from the Galapagos Islands made a rather quiet debut during a Phillies game at Veterans Stadium on April 24, 1978. His first TV appearance was on the Philadelphia-produced children’s show “Captain Noah and His Magical Ark” along with Phillies player Tim McCarver, who was doing promotional work for the team. Wonder if McCarver includes this historic feat in his resume. Very quickly Phillie Phanatic evolved into the most entertaining mascot in all sports.
“A room behind home plate on the ground level of the Vet was labeled “Phanatic” but what went on behind the door wasn’t known. When Citizens Bank Park opened, sure enough there was another room, “Phanatic Locker Room.” It’s across the hall from the Umpire’s Room. Phillie Phanatic can be seen popping in and out of this room. Before the door is closed, that gawking neck peeks out to make sure no one is following.
“We don’t know if Phillie Phanatic watches TV, has an iPod, microwave, cooler, popcorn machine, sleeps standing up, in a bed or hammock. Or, sleeps period. Is there a giant box of Kleenex? We certainly hope a shower is in order. A hot July afternoon makes players sweat profusely. Perhaps Phillie Phanatic doesn’t sweat although those who get close to him often hold their noses.”
Camp To End
Phillies’ 70th spring training in Clearwater comes to an end tomorrow with a 1:05 game against the Houston Astros at Bright House Field. Team heads to Tampa International Airport after the game for a charter flight back to Philadelphia.
Thursday night, the first-ever Phillies Future Game featuring the organization’s top prospects against the big league club will take place at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium, 6:05 p.m. first pitch.
Another such game is scheduled for Citizens Bank Park at 1:05 on Saturday afternoon, April 2.
For details, check out http://www.phillies.com/futures.
Minor league games at Carpenter Complex end on Friday. The following day, Lehigh Valley, Reading and Lakewood teams head north. Clearwater players walk from the Complex to Bright House Field. Players not assigned to those four rosters remain at the Complex as part of extended spring training . . . The Orioles will play the Phillies in an On-Deck Game at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, April 1, 6:05 p.m.
LHP Dick Koecher, who pitched in a total of seven games with the Phillies during the 1946-47-48 seasons, is the latest Phillies Alumnus to turn 90 years of age. His birthday is tomorrow. He joins seven other Phillies Alumni in the team’s Nonagenarian Club.
He is a graduate of Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia and attended Temple University.
Opening Day Phun Fact
April 14, 1914: CF Sherry Magee becomes first Phillies player to homer twice on Opening Day in a 10-1 win over the New York Giants at Baker Bowl.
If a security camera is your guess, you are half right. It is a camera but it is used in video coaching in the Phillies minor league system. This one is mounted on the batter’s eye on the Richie Ashburn field at the Carpenter Complex. All four fields at the complex are equipped with four cameras, of which one is in center field.
This particular camera can also be used to tape infield workouts on the half field at Bright House Field located directly behind the Ashburn field.
Each minor league ballpark in the Phillies system is also equipped with four stationary cameras. Lehigh Valley and Reading may have more camera angles as AAA and AA will have some games on television.
Video coaching is another tool for minor league managers and coaches to use in instructing and developing players. The Phillies have roving instructors who visit different teams. The video is highly beneficial to them. The system allows the Phillies to build a complete video library of every minor league player.
The video system also allows the Phillies to build a library of minor league players in other organizations. Should the Phillies face a pitcher just brought up from the minors, the hitters can watch video. Before, the Phillies manager would call a minor league manager to see if his team faced this certain pitcher. A verbal report was the best case scenario.
The Phillies video coaching staff includes Kevin Camiscioli (Manager), Marc Sigismondo (Coordinator), Brett Gross (Representative, Minor League Operations) and a video intern on each minor league club.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Interesting to see Pete use the squeeze play. We don’t have much power right now and have to manufacture runs. It (squeeze) has to be the right combination…base runner and batter. It is a weapon that can be used but not over used.
It was great seeing the Alumni here on Sunday. While it was a smaller group than we have for Alumni Day at Citizens Bank Park, they brought back memories. When you see them you remember the many good seasons we’ve had.
Hope we get Herrera back in the lineup soon so he can be there on opening day. He’s such a good hitter. He and Maikel are a pretty good one-two punch. Herrera’s also a good person in the clubhouse and on the bench. While he’s not been playing, he’s been on the bench, chatting, high-fiving and tossing balls to fans.
While it wasn’t in the box score after Tuesday’s game against the Twins, it should have been, Error-Wheeler. Doing the PA is pretty non-stop during the game. There are a lot of announcements between innings and tons of lineup changes. Craig (Hughner, Coordinator, Baseball Communications) does a great job with all the lineup changes.
Phil Hughes was pitching for Minnesota and I thought he said Ryan Pressly was coming in the game so I announced him. Craig leaned over, “Hughes is still pitching. James Russell is coming in to pitch for us.” I misunderstood Russell for Pressly. Later in the game, the Twins did bring in Pressly so I said, “now officially pitching for the Twins, number 57, Ryan Pressley.” Worst part of making the mistake? It gave Bowa ammunition to bury me. I reminded him of box scores with E-Bowa.
Each uniform is washed at Bright House Field following every game and then hung to dry. Phil Sheridan, Manager, Home Clubhouse, and oversees the washing of the uniforms. One year Phil figured he did over 3,000 loads of laundry counting spring training and the regular season.
Minor league games continue at 1 every afternoon through April 1 at the Carpenter Complex. Exception is this Saturday when the games start at 10 in the morning. The games are followed by a meeting in which the rosters will be discussed. Releases are always possible.
Opening Day Phun Fact
April 19, 1900: Phillies win at Boston, 19-17, in 10 innings in the highest scoring opener in baseball history. Boston tied the game by scoring nine in the last of the ninth.
Officials from the City of Clearwater and the Phillies dedicated a Florida heritage marker on Saturday morning at the site of where Clearwater Athletic Field once stood. The ballpark served as the major league spring training camp for the Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers (1923-1932; 1936-41), Cleveland Indians (1942-1946) and Phillies (1947-54). The marker is the first in the state of Florida to honor a spring training site. Plans are in the works to have a similar dedication for Jack Russell Stadium.
More New Faces?
Matt Klentak has shown he’s not hesitant to bring in new players. As 29 other spring training camps head for the finish line, players will become available one way or another. Some will be out of options or may have an opt-out clause in their contract. Rule 5 players may become available if they cannot stick with a major league club and large contracts may free a player or two.
By finishing last the Phillies have had the first crack at players placed on waivers. That remains for the first 30 days of the season.
Matt, his assistants along with Mike Ondo, Director of Professional Scouting and his staff of 12 scouts, are having conference calls to review needs of other clubs and players that may become available. Best guess an outfielder is on the top of the Phillies list.
One of those scouts is Del Unser. To learn about his life as a pro scout, check out a feature on Del at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
ICYMI: Last week’s St. Patrick’s Day crowd was a Bright House Field record, 11,222. Was on a 5:40 flight that morning to Tampa and the plane was filled with Phillies fans wearing red and green gear . . . Andres Blanco caught in a minor league game last Friday. He’s being looked at as the emergency catcher . . . Pat Gillick, who began his Hall of Fame career as a scout, is spending a lot of time scouting the top amateur players. The Phillies have the first overall selection in the June draft . . . Next three games are at night. First two are long bus rides, Kissimmee and Orlando . . . Final five in consensus votes for the Toyota Wall of Fame are Jim Fregosi, Jim Konstanty, Jim Thome, Manny Trillo and Scott Rolen. Those names have been submitted to a 15-member Special Wall of Fame Selection Committee. Winner should be announced soon.
Spring Training Memories
Dickie Noles (RHP, 1979-1981; 1990)
“First spring training was in 1976 and stayed at the Best Western right besides LUMS restaurant now Lenny’s. There was a lot to like about spring training, the beginning of a new year, a time to start getting ready for the season, seeing my teammates, the weather, really the whole atmosphere. What didn’t I like, nothing, really.”
Opening Day Phun Fact
May 1, 1883–The Phillies lose their initial opener, 4-3, to Providence at Recreation Park, 24th and Columbia Avenues, when the Grays score four runs in the eighth to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Attendance: an estimated 1,200. Future Hall of Famer Charles (Old Hoss) Radbourne is the winner, the first of 48 victories for him that season. John Coleman is the loser, the first of his 48 defeats (13 wins).
There’s a heavy 1980 flavor in the Phillies camp. 70-year-old Larry Bowa leads’ the trio as the bench coach. Mike Schmidt, 66, is wrapping up another spring as a guest instructor and the baby of the bunch, 65-year-old Greg Luzinski is also a guest instructor. Together they played 5,432 games for the Phillies.
Next trio in terms of games played? Jimmy Rollins-Chase Utley-Ryan Howard, currently sitting at 5,101. Third, Richie Ashburn-Del Ennis-Willie Jones, 4,944.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
“There’s a buzz in camp about Maikel Franco’s power. He’s a different player this spring. When he was called up in September of ’14 and in spring training last year, he struggled at bat swinging at most anything. He went back to AAA a year ago, worked hard and came back up in May to stay. He improved a lot offensively and now he’s a legit power hitter. He’s crushing the ball, not hitting fence scrapers. He makes spectacular plays on defense but needs to be a bit more consistent on all the routine plays.
“Tyler Goeddel has some tools and is a perfect fit with Aaron Altherr out and the fact we are rebuilding. We got Odubel Herrera in the rule 5 draft and now Tyler. Not saying he’s as good a hitter as Herrera but these two kids are a credit to Mike Ondo and his professional scouts who recommended drafting them.
“J. P. Crawford and Nick Williams are really good-looking prospects who are not far away. Each has a lot of tools. Williams is strong and has power, not Franco-type power however.
“Roman Quinn was sent to Reading but that kid has tools, too. He can really fly. He sort of reminds me of Jimmy Rollins with his up-beat personality. He needs to stay healthy all season and get a lot of at-bats. I can see why our people are so high on him.
“Most often your AAA club is stocked with six-year minor league free agents, players who are sort of insurance policies in case of injuries. Lehigh Valley will be different this season. The first three cuts, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel and Zach Elfin, are impressive young prospects who have a chance to pitch in the majors.
“As I said before, it will be interesting to watch these kids in triple-A. It used to be a prospect in AA ball would move up the next year and spend a full season in AAA. Nowadays, it seems as if they spend less time in AAA before moving up to the majors.”
When did Tug McGraw first wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? Know it was at Jack Russell Stadium. According to broadandpattison.com: April 17, 1979: Wearing green socks and a green undershirt, Tug McGraw gave up a game tying home run in the top of the eighth inning, but emerged with a win when the Phillies scored in the bottom of the inning to beat the White Sox . . . A Florida Historical Marker will be dedicated at the location of Clearwater Athletic Field at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Location is the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street. The Phillies trained there from 1947 through 1954. Brooklyn (1923-1932; 1936-41) and Cleveland (1942-1946) preceded the Phillies.
Third annual Phillies Alumni Day will take place on Sunday. About 30 Alumni will be introduced on the field pre-game. Some will be signing autographs and three will greet fans at gates which open at 10:35 a.m. for the 1:05 game against Houston.
Spring Training Memories
Randy Ready (INF, 1989-91; 1994-95)
“I signed in 1980 and went straight to Butte so my first spring training was the following year in the Padres minor league camp. Peoria, AZ, the Rodeway Inn. Roommate was Al “Country Bumpkin” Manning.
“I remember taking batting practice and then chasing down fly balls in the outfield. There were no fences so the balls kept going and going. I remember asking myself, ‘Is this pro ball?’ Especially, after a cup of tomato soup and crackers for lunch served off the tailgate of some pick-up truck.
“My first Phillies camp was 1990. Larry Bowa hit me ground balls and barked, ‘Your hands aren’t too bad but you got a lot of work to do.’
“What I liked about spring training? My teammates dragging ass after a long day of work and getting together after for drinks and dinner. I didn’t like the soreness and the early wake-up calls.”
The Yankees won the last spring training game in the history of Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, 2-0, on March 28, 2003.
Phillies photographer Miles Kennedy captured a unique angle of the players loosening up in the morning in Bradenton.
On Friday I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Bright House Field. Hope to see you there.
Standing by the third base dugout, Phillies broadcasters watch, observe, witness batting practice at Bright House Field. Three weeks from today they will be enjoying a day off in Cincinnati. The Phillies and Reds begin the season the day before (April 4) at 4:10 p.m. Game on ComcastSportsnet.
Minor league games begin this afternoon, at Carpenter Complex, Blue Jays AAA and AA clubs there while two Phillies A teams go to Dunedin. Tomorrow, AAA and AA games are against the Pirates at the complex . . . Thursday is a camp day. All games are 1 p.m. . . . Lefty Jim Kaat is in camp as a guest instructor. He’ll be there for Sunday’s Alumni Day . . . Another former Phillies lefty, Randy Wolf, announced his retirement last week. Wolf won the first game in Houston’s Enron Field and lost the Citizens Bank Park inaugural game . . . Under the direction of Larry Bowa, Scott Rolen will be in camp Thursday morning to work with Maikel Franco.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported over the weekend that non-roster reliever Edward Mujica has a clause in his contract that he can be released if he’s not added to the 40-man roster by March 26. Ernesto Frieri has the same agreement. His date is March 31.
Two pitchers who are out of options are RH Jeanmar Gomez and LH Brett Oberholtzer.
Spring Training Memories
Matt Stairs, OF, 2008-09; Phillies Broadcaster
“My first big league camp was 1989 with the Montreal Expos in West Palm Beach, FL. It was their big league camp. My wife and I lived in an apartment across the street from the park.
“The thing I liked about spring training was learning a lot of hitting and fielding tips from major league players. Also being around players I watched on TV
“Dislike- when I got sent to minor league camp you were just like everyone else, fighting for a job towards a minor league team. I was only in minor league camp over my career for maybe 2 weeks.”
Two pennant winners trained at Clearwater Athletic Field, the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1950 Phillies.
Brooklyn Dodgers manager Casey Stengel and Phillies skipper, Jimmy Wilson, shake hands before a spring training game at Clearwater Athletic Field on May 12, 1936. The Dodgers trained in Clearwater then while the Phillies were in Winter Haven. An outfielder, Stengel played for the Phillies in 1920-21. Photo, courtesy of Bob Warrington.
I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., this Friday, March 18, at Bright House Field. First opportunity to buy the book.
Today’s the 1,900 blog. The first one was March 20, 2006. Thanks for reading. Hope you didn’t fall asleep……too often.
Every morning, no matter if the Phillies are home on the road, there’s batting practice at Bright House Field.
Ruf and Rupp each hit two home runs Wednesday as the Phillies won two games, vs. Baltimore in Clearwater and vs. Minnesota in Ft. Myers. Wonder if that has ever happened, two different players hitting two home runs in a split squad day.
Cameron Rupp posted a clever tweet: “4 homers on the day for Cameron Ruf.”
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Losing Altherr is a big blow. He’s an athletic, an outstanding defensive outfielder with a good arm and power potential. Plus he’s a right-handed bat something we need. Goeddel is an intriguing young prospect. He, too, is very athletic. As a hitter, very aggressive. As a Rule 5 pick, he was going to get playing time. Now, even more.
What a great arm Velasquez has. He lights it up in the middle of the 90s consistently. Can see why we wanted him in the Giles deal. He likes to pitch and is working on his off-speed stuff.
Howard, who’s been sick, got to take live BP Wednesday. Standing behind the cage were Luzinski and Schmidt. Thought hit me, those three hit a ton of Phillies home runs. Our greatest eras were represented. Now, we’re trying to build another core for another championship run.
As we get to the middle of March, more and more Phillies fans are coming down here. In talking with them, they are enjoying seeing the outstanding young players and they understand the direction the organization is taking. They really know a lot about our young prospects, are very interested in judging their talent and following their careers.
I continue to be amazed with the atmosphere at Bright House Field. There’s no better ballpark in Florida. Fans just continue to enjoy being here. It’s been like that from day one 12 years ago.
Birthdays today: OF Cedric Hunter (28) and broadcaster Ben Davis (39) . . . Hispanic Phillies minor leaguers will have English speaking lessons starting Friday morning at the Complex . . . While this is the Phillies 70th spring training in Clearwater, it’s also the 50th anniversary of Carpenter Complex. Learn about the history of the Complex visit http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
Spring Training Memories
Ben Davis, Phillies broadcaster
“I guess you could say my first spring training was in February 1996, in Peoria, AZ. I was out there the previous year for a week in extended spring after I got drafted by the Padres. But that first, full spring training was in 1996. My roommate was a pitcher and fellow Pennsylvanian named Todd Erdos. I can’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed in, nor do I want to. It was a cockroach-infested hole. One memory I can recall is thinking to myself, ‘How many more bullpens are there to catch?’
“The things I liked most was getting in the hot weather, hitting on an actual field (as opposed to a cage in some cold warehouse back home), being back with my teammates, NCAA March Madness brackets, and preparing myself every day for the long season coming up.
“I didn’t like getting up early every day. I didn’t like the minor league chow line. I didn’t like the endless bullpens to catch. I didn’t like my farmer’s tan! I didn’t like that it was 6 weeks long…we, as players, thought we were ready to go a lot sooner than that.”
I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, March 18, at Bright House Field. First opportunity to buy the book.
Today 64-year-old Pete Mackanin is in his first full year as the Phillies manager. Three times, he’s been an interim manager in the majors, including last season with the Phils. He spent 13 seasons managing in the minors and six in winter ball.
Yesteryear, Pete played in two seasons with the Phillies during his nine-year major league career as an infielder. He was claimed off waivers from Montreal in September of 1978. He also was on the 1979 club and traded to Minnesota after that season. His Phillies career amounted to 18 games, 17 at-bats, a .176 average and one home run, 9/26/79, off St. Louis LHP Bob Skyes at Veterans Stadium. As an enemy player, he took Tommy Underwood and Larry Christenson deep at the Vet.
He’s one eight to manage, play and coach for the Phillies.
Pete’s Spring Training Memories
“First spring training was with the Washington Senators minor league teams in 1970. Stayed at the Holiday Inn in Plant City, which is across the state from Pompano Beach where the big league team trained.
“I signed out of high school in 1969, so it’s all new on my first day. I had played the year before at (Rookie League) Wytheville, Virginia. But, spring training is a whole different entity in itself. So I was just doing what they told me, trying to see how everything worked.
“My first Phillies spring training as a player was 1979. Jim Wright broke his arm that spring. He threw a pitch and his arm just snapped and dangled. He was a top prospect but he was never the same.
“Being around guys like Schmidt and Luzinski and Bowa. Lonborg and Carlton and all these real good players. I was trying to make the team as a utility infielder. I just kept my mouth shut. You go about your business differently when you’re in that situation. You just try to blend in.”
“My least favorite part is watching pitchers throw on the side. Because you see what you think is really good stuff and you get excited. And then, not all of them, but some of them get in the game and get killed.
“My favorite part is the camaraderie in the clubhouse. It keeps me young. We have a lot of fun in the clubhouse, trading jokes and telling stories. If you kept a recording of the stories that pop up on a daily basis, even from back in the day, it would be a real money maker. We laugh. We hear the same stories 10 times and we still laugh.”
With the minor leaguers having started their camp at Carpenter Field, extra bodies are available for the major league club. Every morning an e-mail is sent by Joe Cynar, Assistant Director, Minor League Operations/Florida, to Pete Mackanin and his staff listing the minor leaguers being assigned to the big club for that day’s game.
Tomorrow the Phillies have their second and last split squad, home with the Orioles and at the Twins. Look for multiple extra bodies. Bus for the Twins game in Ft. Myers leaves at 7:45 a.m.
Phillies minor league teams begin exhibition games a week from today (March 15). Two games are at Carpenter Field every afternoon, either AAA and AA or two class A teams. Those games provide an opportunity for players from the big league camp to get some at-bats or innings.
Photo day for all Phillies minor leaguers was held yesterday at 6:30 a.m. . . . Sports Illustrated is doing a cover story for its April issue featuring Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola. Photo shoot is today . . . WIP’s Mike & Ike Show finished two straight days of live broadcasts from Bright House Field today . . . Station’s morning show will be live Thursday and Friday . . . Happy 74th birthday today to Dick Allen . . . Greg Luzinski is in camp as a guest instructor.
The Phillies lost the first game they ever played in Clearwater, 13-1, to the Detroit Tigers on March 11, 1947, at Athletic Field. Their first win came 17 days later, 8-7, over St. Louis on an 11th-inning, walk-off home run by OF Johnny Wyrostek.
Who’s 1st at 2nd?
OK, who has played the most games at second base in Phillies history? Answer is easy. Only one of the top five is relatively unknown. Check out the story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.
I’m scheduled to sign my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, March 18, at Bright House Field. First opportunity to buy the book
Everybody needs spring training including Phillie Phanatic. He’s at every Bright House Field game. His hot dog shooter was even sent down on the equipment truck last month.
Wonder what he does when there are no games….fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, sun- bathing on Clearwater Beach, reading in the Clearwater library, bonding with friends at the Tampa Zoo or face time with the Galapogos Gang back in Philly? We’ll probably never know.
Wheels’ Clearwater Report
Mentioned last week how things were being done differently in camp. Over the past week observed that the coaches and instructors were doing a lot more instructing and teaching and the players were paying attention. It is another example of having a camp of young players. Often in the past, veteran players sort of had their own programs. Not this year. It has created a totally different atmosphere.
Got to say something about Chooch (Carlos Ruiz). He’s so valuable in the clubhouse. He not only talks to the young catchers every day and young pitchers but everyone. His English is great, he can be serious and he can make people laugh. (Andres) Blanco is very similar. They are really important players on this team.
Another observation, the camp is filled with big athletes. Most pitchers are tall. (Jorge) Alfaro is a big, good-looking athlete. A power bat and power arm. The only guy I can look in the eye is (Roman) Quinn. He’s my height.
J.P. (Crawford) is another impressive athlete. Just watching him in drills, he is fluid, good arm, good hands. He’s rangy and will fill out. Like everyone else, it’s going to be interesting watching him develop into a big leaguer.
Ernie Whitt’s team won the golf tournament. Our team and his tied. The tie breaker was determined by matching scorecards from the lowest handicapped hole back. It took four holes to determine the winner. With a lot of new, young players I thought we might have trouble finding golfers. We wound up with 68 participants, more than a year ago.
Most interesting story was (Vince) Velasquez. Usually I pick the older players for captains and the draft. Learned that he has a 7 handicap which means he can play. So I picked him as one of the captains. Sunday morning Phil Sheridan called me from the clubhouse and said Velasquez wanted to talk to me. I figured he’s bailing. Instead, he was pumped. He wanted to know all about the draft, how it worked, how many players were on each team. “I can’t wait and we’re not out to lose. I’m going to buy my team matching golf shirts,” he said. He did and his team finished third. The Belleair Country Club does such a great job helping us put on the tournament which is followed by a dinner and presentation of awards. Did lose one captain because he wasn’t feeling well, Schmitty. He’s a good golfer and we missed him.
The tournament is a great thing and is always held the day before the games begin. It is nice break from the daily drills and the games that will last until October. One other point, I was glad we beat the University of Tampa. It may sound strange but there was a lot of negativity when we lost to them last spring. Chris Wheeler.
Somewhere around 150 players will be in the Phillies minor league camp at Carpenter Field on Friday. First day includes introductions in the large Training Facility. The number of players will increase when some of the young prospects are assigned there from the big league camp. Daily workouts are open to the fans free of charge. More later about the game schedule there.
Today’s one of those split squad dates. One squad will be at Bright House Field to face the Astros while another will bus (9:15 a.m.) to nearby Tampa to take on the Yankees. With an army of pitchers in camp, the two games gives the staff a chance to see more arms.
Spring Training Memories
Tommy Hutton (1B, 1972-77)
“My 1st Spring Training was with the Dodgers at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Simply put, Vero Beach was quite a change for this Southern California kid! My roommate was Jim Lefebvre. With minor leaguers and major leaguers all together in Dodgertown, it was a thrill to see guys like Koufax, Drysdale, etc. hanging out in the same places you did.
“My first Phillies spring training was 1972 and was different than Dodgertown. The Carpenter Complex was a few miles from the main ballpark and made for some adjustments. The best thing that ever happened to me in Clearwater was meeting my wife Debby in 1974. I’m happy to report 41 years later and still going strong.
“The part of spring training I enjoyed was just getting back in the routine of playing baseball and the camaraderie of my teammates. What I didn’t like was the pitchers were always finished with their work hours before the position players!! My wife could never understand why my Brother-in-Law, Dick Ruthven was always home way before I was!!!”
March 4, 2004: Phillies defeated New York Yankees, 5-1, in first game played at Bright House Network Field. SS Jimmy Rollins hit the first home run. Seems so long ago.
Voting Ends Monday
Yep, at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 7, fan voting ends for the 2016 inductee into the Toyota Phillies Wall of Fame: http://www.phillies.com/wof.
In my experience, spring training comes in three phases, let’s get started, let’s play games and let’s get out of here. Phase two starts today with the first Grapefruit League game and the Phillies in their red spring training jerseys. While the game won’t be a sellout, there’s nothing more beautiful than a packed Bright House Field.
With games underway in Florida and Arizona, Mike Ondo, Director of Professional Scouting, has his staff covering both states. Florida includes Jon Mercurio,
Howie Freiling, Jesse Levis, Dave Hollins, Ed Wade and Roy Tanner. Covering Arizona are Dan Wright, Craig Colbert, Jeff Harris, Del Unser, Gordon Lakey and Steve Jongewaard.
A year ago at this time, Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Justin DeFratus and Jake Diekman were in the Phillies bullpen. All have departed.
Plenty of arms competing for a bullpen spot starting today.
Included are four left-handers, Daniel Stumpf, Elvis Araujo, James Russell and Bobby
LaFromboise. Stumpf is a rule 5 draftee, Araujo was great last year but struggled with command in Venezuela this winter, Russell has the most big league experience but he’s attempting to bounce back from a tough 2015 and LaFromboise is a non-roster invitee who’s bounced around on waiver claims.
Third annual Alumni Day is scheduled for Sunday, March 20. More on that later . . . Don’t forget to vote for the 2016 Wall of Fame inductee: http://www.phillies.com/wof . . . Chris Wheeler will have another Clearwater report on Thursday . . . Carlos Ruiz will miss several games in a couple of weeks to play for his native country, Panama, in the World Baseball Classic.
Spring Training Memories
Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95)
“The first year was 1986. Location, Days Inn in West Palm Beach, FL. My first day there I remember walking to my room on the second floor, over-looking the balcony rail and seeing about 12 girls. One of them, Wendy Darling, eventually became my wife. She was on spring break sunning by the pool. Baseball definitely blessed my Life!!!
“I remember the cast of characters we had there in 1991, my first camp with the Phillies, the foundation of the 1993 team. Also, meeting and getting to know my new pitching coach Johnny Padres. What a great and funny guy. Also, I remember Roger McDowell throwing a pack of fire crackers in the bathroom early in the morning scaring everyone to death. You had to always know where he was at back then.
“I liked seeing the guys again and also the smell and sounds of the ballpark. I liked working to get ready to compete as a team. I loved the challenge. I disliked the standing around in the wind shagging BP after we had gotten all our work in for the day. The standing and cooling down made you so stiff.”
The very first spring training game in Clearwater was held March 15, 1923. The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) defeated the Boston Braves, 12-7, at Clearwater Athletic Field, located near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street. Original capacity was 3,000 seats in a wooden grandstand.