November 2016

From Postseason to Check Book Season

The regular season and postseason are history. Now, it’s time for hunting season in which general managers are armed with checkbooks.

Came across the following: “MLB Trade Rumors is proud to present our eleventh annual Top 50 Free Agents list!”

Authors are Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams and Jeff Todd. Not an exact science but an interesting article. Awesome website to add to your favorites, if not already on the list,
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com.

According to this article:
7th ranked, Jeff Hellickson, Rangers, 4 years, $60 million.
9th, OF Ian Desmond, Phillies, 4 years, $60 million
32nd, RHP Joe Blanton, Marlins, 2 years, $14 million
46th, RHP Charlie Morton, Royals, 1 year, $8 million
47th, RHP Edinson Volquez, Phillies, 1 year, $8 million
49th, 2B Chase Utley, Angels, 1 year, $8 million

2016 Photo Album

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Catcher David Ross poses with Phillie Phanatic prior to the Cubs’ final game in Citizens Bank Park back on June 8. Ross decided the season would be his last and wanted to collect photos from each ballpark. His Philly wish? Phillie Phanatic. Certainly a better photo than posing with a cheese steak.

Ross closed a 15-year career in an unmatched fashion, a home run in his last game, Game 7 of the World Series.

Under The Radar
(Continuing previews of Phillies minor league players who are under the radar. These young prospects are not listed on the MLBpipeline.com list of top 30 prospects but are still considered potential big leaguers).

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RHP Luke Leftwich . . . 22 . . . 6-3, 205 . . . L-R . . . Attended Wofford College (SC) . . . Selected by the Phillies in the7th round, June 2015; signed by Aaron Jersild. 3-year college career: 13-13, 261 strikeouts in 220 innings . . . Father was a second-round draft pick of the California Angels in 1990 and pitched in the major leagues (1993-96). Grandfather, Tom Timmermann, pitched for six seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1969–1973) and Cleveland Indians (1973–1974) . . 2015: Began pro career at Williamsport, 2-2, 2.76 ERA for 11 games (9 starts). Allowed 1 ER or none in 6 of those starts . . . 2016: Started season at Lakewood, 7-3, 2.00 ERA for 12 starts. 88 strikeouts led SAL when promoted (June 24) to Clearwater where he was 3-4, 5.07 for 11 starts. Combined for 137 strikeouts in 122.2 innings with just 35 walks. Mid-season All-Star at Lakeland . . . 2-year totals: 12-9, 3.21 ERA, 171 strikeouts in 168.1 innings, 1.30 WHIP . . . Features fastball, curve, slider and change-up.

Unbreakable Record
Continuing a journey through Phillies records that are unbreakable, this week’s spotlight shines on Pete Childs, a little-known Philadelphia native.

Lowest slugging percentage, season: .206, 1902

After playing for both the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in 1901, Pete played second base for the Phillies the following season, his second and last in the majors. He hit .194 in 123 Phillies games. The 30-year-old had five doubles among 78 hits and the rest were singles. That calculates to a .206 slugging percentage. Sorry, Pete, but this is going to be your record for another century.

Information on Pete is skimpy. According to Baseball-reference.com Pete threw right-handed, which figures since he played second. As far as which way he batted: unknown.

Phun Fact

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Larry Bowa played in the last game at Connie Mack Stadium (1970), got the first hit in the opening game at Veterans Stadium (1971), managed the Phillies in the last game at the Vet (2003) and the first game at Citizens Bank Park (2004). Last ejection at both the Vet and Jack Russell Memorial Stadium? Bowa. You expected Phillie Phanatic?

And, he’s worn the Phillies uniform longer than anyone in the team’s history, 28 seasons heading into 2017.

This Date
November 10, 1987


Closer Steve Bedrosian wins the National League’s Cy Young Award in the closest
voting ever with 57 points to 55 for Rick Sutcliffe of the Chicago Cubs and 54 for Rick
Reuschel of the Pittsburgh Pirates/San Francisco Giants.

The 29-year-old “Bedrock” was 5-3, 2.83 ERA with a club-record, league-leading 40
saves in 68 games. Of the Phillies’ 80 wins, he had a hand in 45. 15 of the saves came
when he pitched two innings. 40 saves marked the first time a Phillies reliever led the
NL. Along the way, he set an MLB record with 13 consecutive saves, May 25-June 30.

Past Gold
So, position-by-position, who have the most Gold Gloves for the Phillies. Check out the
story at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.

(Next post: Next Tuesday).

Team Travel is Hiss Gig

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“There are lot of little details that become big ones if you forget one.” That’s how Frank Coppenbarger, Director Team Travel & Clubhouse Services, describes his position. As a 10-year-old he helped out in the clubhouse of his home town team, the Decatur (IL) Giants of the Midwest League. It was the start of a path that carried him through the minor leagues to the big leagues in 1981 with the St. Louis Cardinals (assistant equipment manager). He was brought to Philadelphia in 1989 by GM Lee Thomas to take over the Phillies clubhouse. Ten years later he also assumed the traveling secretary duties.

Frank’s office is the first door on the right once you walk through the double door entrance to the large clubhouse area. His desk resembles any other work area but his room is decorated with numerous framed photos of all sizes and occasions, a large bat rack, miniature models of each major league stadiums, a small cooler, caps from the postseason years and a large painting of 2008. A mini-museum so to speak.

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For a home night game, Frank usually wanders in around 12 noon and leaves about an hour after the game. Up until 2014, he made every road trip. Now he misses a couple per season. If there is a day off at home, Frank has a day off. The Clubhouse Services portion of his role is to oversee three managers, Phil Sheridan (home clubhouse), Dan O’Rourke (equipment and umpire services) and Kevin Steinhour (visiting clubhouse).

There’s also Joe Swanhart who works for the Phillies from February through the end of the season. “Swanny” prepares and organizes all food, beverage and snacks for our clubhouse in spring training and the season. Made to order breakfast from Lenny’s Restaurant is available at Bright House Field every morning followed by lunch and snacks and a post-game spread. At Citizens Bank Park, Swanny will prepare lunch and a full post-game meal for the players, manager and coaches. (Breakfast on day games). Snacks are available all the time. He’ll also have some of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants cater pre and post-game meals instead of wearing a chef’s hat in the clubhouse kitchen. Tables and chairs are in a dining area next to the kitchen. Cost for the food and beverage and certain equipment is covered by a monthly fee the players and coaches pay Coppenbarger and his staff.

The Team Travel portion is his biggest and most time-consuming duty. He’s basically a one-man travel agency scheduling buses, trucks, trains, airplanes and hotels for a traveling party that normally includes 55 persons. For the postseason, that number swells to 120-130 as player wives, ownership and club executives will travel with the team.

“I usually get the first draft of next year’s schedule in June,” he explained. “Game times are missing and slight adjustments can be made but I will know where and when we will be on road. First priority is selecting hotels in each city. Changing hotels may require a trip there after the season. Need to see everything first hand and meet people face-to-face.

“Bids for charter flights are handled early in the postseason. We need a 737 800 series aircraft with the exception of the west coast when we will use a larger plane. Once all the game times have been set, which can be as late as December, I’ll reach out to the bus and truck companies and provide them with a detailed schedule.” That schedule will include departure times to and from the ballpark, or hotel or airport. Also included is “spot time.” “We need to have them on the spot 30 minutes prior to departure. They sit and wait but that’s better than having them arrive late because of one reason or another,” Frank explained. In most cities, Frank will arrange for the bus to shuttle from the hotel to the ballpark and back again for a second trip. Post-game, one bus. No bus is needed in San Diego as the ballpark is across the street from the hotel.

Travel to and from New York means a couple of buses. Trips to Baltimore and Washington are Amtrak charter trains. Equipment is trucked to those cities. Dress code for trips is determined by the manager. For most recent seasons, sport coats, dress slacks and collared shirt are required until Memorial Day at which time sport coats become optional.

When the Phillies are leaving for a road trip, Frank will post a sign in the clubhouse of the bus departure time (usually one hour after the last out). Two days prior, he calls the bus and truck companies to review the times and locations needed. Hotels receive a rooming list. United Airlines, the 2015 charter provider, will let Frank know if the airplane has landed and waiting at the Philadelphia airport. On the rare occasion when the aircraft is late getting to an airport, mostly because of weather issues, Frank will delay the bus departure from the ballpark until he has heard from the airline. Security checks are generally done at the ballpark through TSA. “I really don’t know how traveling secretaries did this job before cell phones,” he days shaking his head.

Glitches do occur. “One time the equipment truck went to the wrong airport in Houston. Another time, we were playing in Oakland but staying in San Francisco. We flew into SF but the equipment truck was waiting for us at the Oakland airport. Buses have always been in the right place at the right time, knock on wood.”

While rooms are booked well in advance and hotels are very cooperative in providing additional rooms at the last minute, Frank’s experienced three hotel nightmares. “We were rained out in Boston on get-away day and the Red Sox decided to hold us over to play the next day. We had checked out of the hotel and couldn’t get back in because they were sold out. Players were in the clubhouse anxious to get back to the hotel. Had to scramble to get rooms. Similar thing happened in New York twice. Once the United Nations General Assembly was in session and rooms were nowhere to be found. Finally came up with three different hotels which meant adjusting the bus schedules. In the postseason that’s the biggest worry, enough to keep me awake at night. It happened to the Rays in 2008 when the game here was suspended. They wound up getting rooms in Wilmington because Philadelphia hotels were booked solid,” he said.

Then, there was Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia late in the 2015 season. The Phillies finished a weekend series in Washington, DC, on Sunday, September 27, their last road game. Travel plans called for an Amtrak charter train that evening for the traveling party of 60. Frank had to change plans as the parking lots in and around the sports complex were being used for tourist buses, some streets in center city were closed and it was questionable that Frank’s buses could meet the team at 30th Street Station.

“If you live in outlying suburbs, you can get home on your own Sunday night,” Coppenbarger told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “One of our athletic trainers lives in West Chester, so I think he’ll head home after the game. But the Pope’s not going to be in West Chester.” Many of the rookies on the team were staying in a center city hotel. Getting there could be an issue because of traffic and street closings. “Some of our guys haven’t been here that long and they only know one way home,” Frank added. “The GPS doesn’t factor in the Pope.” Instead, official team travel didn’t happen until Monday.” Instead of 30th Street Station, the Phillies got off the train in Wilmington and bused to Citizens Bank Park.

Through the basic agreement players are entitled to four complimentary tickets for family and two for friends. They are taxed for the tickets. All tickets in the postseason must be paid for as there are no comps. Tickets are another Coppenbarger chore. Each clubhouse is equipped with two computers for the players to request tickets. Computers are turned off two hours prior to game time. A ticket list and tickets are delivered to Frank from the ticket office. He places tickets in envelopes putting all families in the same section. The envelopes are returned to the ticket office and placed at the will call window.

What’s in his office refrigerator?

Budweiser beer, Coca-Cola and a bottle of champagne. Champagne? “We needed it when Charlie (Manuel) won his 500th game as our manager and when Doc (Roy Halladay) pitched his no-hitter in the playoffs. You never know when something special may happen,” Frank explained. He went on to tell the story of Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in Chicago in 2015. “After the sixth inning I asked Mike Burkhardt, (Cubs’ visiting clubhouse manager) if he had any champagne. He was busy working, didn’t realize what was going on and asked why. I told him I didn’t want to jinx anyone but Cole is pitching a no-hitter. Burkhardt said he would send a clubhouse worker to a nearby liquor store to get a bottle.” Within minutes of the final out, the Baseball Hall of Fame e-mailed Frank asking for Cole’s hat and a ball from the game. Cole wanted the pitching rubber and/or home plate as souvenirs and Frank began the process of requesting both from the Cubs.

When the Phillies call up a player from the minor leagues Frank will get a hotel room in Philadelphia if the player doesn’t have a friend on the team who will allow him to move in. When a new player comes to the Phillies via a trade, Frank is responsible for arranging transportation and a hotel room. The other team will provide the same for the player leaving the Phillies. Uniform numbers come under Frank’s jurisdiction. After Jimmy Rollins was traded, Coppenbarger decided not to issue #11 for a while. Same for 35 (Cole) and 26 (Chase Utley). Eventually the numbers will be worn again. The Phillies policy on retiring uniform numbers is limited to their Hall of Fame icons.

Baseball, majors and minors, annually hold meetings in December. Hotel accommodations for the Phillies group is handled by Frank. November and January are less demanding months as far as time at the ballpark for him. February means the start of spring training. At the end of the season the Phillies are responsible for providing transportation to a player’s home. Same applies for getting to Clearwater. Hotel needs don’t exist in spring training but two busses are needed for each road trip. And, tickets kick in again. Following the last game, an airplane awaits at the Tampa International Airport ready to take the Phillies to their season-opening destination. Rest assured, Frank will call to make sure. After all, there are lot of little details that become big ones if you forget one. No airplane would be a giant blown detail.

(Looking for a birthday gift? My newest book, Fightin’ Phils, would be perfect. Book was published in April by Triumph Books and available online or in book stores. One of the eight chapters is Behind The Scenes).

Chooch to Return

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Jimmy Rollins returned to Citizens Bank Park with the Dodgers in 2015. Chase Utley, this past season with the Dodgers. Another popular icon from the Phillies 2008 World Champs will be back next season.

Carlos Ruiz (Miles Kennedy photo) is now a member of the Seattle Mariners, traded there by the Dodgers. Seattle has a two-game series at CBP next May 9 (7:05 p.m.) and May 10 (1:05 p.m.). Look for a Chooch Lovefest.

New Hitting Coach
From the dugout to the broadcasting booth and back to the dugout. That’s the path Matt Stairs took to become the Phillies new hitting coach. He spent 19 years in the major leagues followed by three years as an analyst on the Phillies telecasts.

In addition to his playing experience Stairs has been watching and analyzing Phillies hitters from the broadcast booth for the last three seasons. In other words, Matt isn’t coming in stone cold. He knows hitting, knows the young Phillies hitters, their plusses and minuses.

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Stairs became a fan favorite when he hit a pinch, two-run homer to win NLCS Game 4 at Dodger Stadium in 2008 (Getty image). Among dramatic homers in Phillies history it ranks #2 to Dick Sisler’s three-run blast that won the 1950 pennant in Brooklyn.

Stairs Phun Facts
Holds major league record for most career pinch-hit home runs (23). He also holds baseball’s record for the most teams by a position player (12). (Technically, 13 teams but 12 franchises as he played for the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals).
On April 12, 2009, Stairs’ game-winning home run against the Rockies in Denver was the last home run called by legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died unexpectedly less than 24 hours later.

#1 Minor League System
Two years after finishing on the bottom of minor league systems, the Phillies earned the 2016 Best Farm System MiLBY Award by MiLB.com.

A series of trades since 2014, two very good summer drafts and key signings on the international front have provided the Phillies with depth of quality prospects in the minors. The system finished 482-348 for the best winning percentage (.581) among National League organizations and second in all of baseball to Seattle (.590).

The Phillies’ six domestic minor league teams combined to post a 3.34 ERA and a .262 team batting average in the regular season. Four reached the postseason with a fifth, Clearwater, just missing.

Phillies minor league players received one league MVP, one league Pitcher of the Year, one league Rookie of the Year, two Futures Game selections, four league Player of the Month Awards, 14 league Player of the Week honors and 28 different league All-Star Game selections.

New Bullpen Arm

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Matt Klentak didn’t waste any time in making a move last week when he acquired veteran right-handed reliever Pat Neshek (Getty image) from Houston. Goal is to improve a bullpen that was 28th in baseball in ERA (5.01).

The 10-year veteran will pitch next season at 36 years of age. Last season with the Astros, 60 games, 2-2, 3.06 ERA, 0.94 WHIP. Was scoreless in 50 of 60 outings, working 1 inning or less 59 times. Finished tied for second on the club in holds (18).

His sidearm-style is very effective against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .184 career average. He features sinkers and sliders. An All-Star two years ago, Pat has postseason experience with the Twins, A’s, Cardinals and Astros.

Neshek’s contract for next season is $6.5 million which makes him the highest paid player on the club.

Teenage Phillies
Over the course of the offseason, will preview young Phillies minor leaguers. How young? Well, they played in their teens during 2016.

2B Dan Brito . . . Age: 18 . . . B-L, T-R . . . 6-1, 155 . . . Signed as an international amateur free agent out of Puerto de Ordaz, VZ, by Carlos Salas, 7/17/14 . . . 2015: Began pro career with the Dominican Summer League Phillies; led all Phillies short-season minor leaguers in BB (35) . . . 2016: First year in the states playing for Gulf Coast League Phillies. Led club in runs (35), hits (54), triples (5) and walks (21) while batting .284. Ended season hitting .350 in last 10 games. Post-season All-Star Team . . . Participated in Florida Instructional League . . . 2-year totals: .276, 56 walks, 49 strikeouts in 107 games.

Baseball Calendar
This Week GM Meetings, Scottsdale, AZ. (Matt Klentak, Ned Rice and Scott Proefrock) Today Free agency begins at midnight
Nov. 18 40-man roster deadline (8 p.m. ET)
Dec. 1 Basic agreement with players expires
Dec. 5-8 Winter Meetings, National Harbor, MD
Dec. 8 Rule 5 Draft
Feb. 14 Spring training starts
Mar. 20-22 World Baseball Classic championship
April 2 Season opener

Best Game 7 Line
“And it was suddenly possible to type a sentence that no living human has ever typed: The Chicago Cubs are the champions of baseball,” ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark.

This Date
November 8, 1933—Philadelphia votes to overturn the city’s “blue” laws which prohibited Sunday baseball dating back to 1794. The vote allowed the Phillies to play Sunday home games starting in 1934. (broadandpattison.com)

November 8, 2006—Ryan Howard is named MVP of the Japan All-Star series after hitting .558 with four home runs and eight RBI in five games. (broadandpattison.com)

By the way, Howard hit 11 home runs in spring training that year, 58 during the season and four in Japan. His W-2 for the year showed 73 home runs.

Joseph’s Feel Good Season

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A year ago at this time Tommy Joseph was in no-where land, having been removed from the Phillies 40-man roster (10/19) after hitting .193 in 45 games at Lehigh Valley. He was subject to baseball’s Rule 5 draft in December. That came and went meaning he was a total free agent.

Drafted in the second round by the Giants in 2009, Tommy was a prize, heavy-hitting catcher and the centerpiece when the Phillies traded Hunter Pence in July of 2012. His first two minor league seasons had produced 55 doubles, 38 home runs and 163 RBI. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

What followed were four seasons which qualified him for M*A*S*H: concussion (2012), concussion (2013), season-ending wrist injury (2014) and concussion (2015). Over those last three seasons he played in a total of 121 games (14 home runs). He was on three rehab assignments in Clearwater which included 20 games in the Gulf Coast League, the lowest end of the baseball universe.

Tommy didn’t give up, worked hard, lost some weight and finally resigned with the Phillies on February 25 after major league camps had opened. Join the minor league mob at Carpenter Complex in a couple of weeks were his orders.

Now playing first base, Tommy had an impressive minor league camp and an even more impressive start at Lehigh Valley (.347, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 27 games). The Phillies noticed and brought him to the majors on May 13. The previous May 13 at LV, .123 with 0 home runs.

Joseph added some badly needed punch to the lineup, 21 homers in 107 games. Only three other Phillies rookies hit more. Seven homers came in his first 21 games. No Phillies hitter had done that in the last 100 years.

He and Ryan Howard, the incumbent icon, blended well sharing time at first base. It was a testimony to the quality of two quality men.

Tommy easily was the feel-good story of the 2016 Phillies. His season was filled with a lot of emotion. It ended with him hugging Ryan after replacing the Big Piece in the final inning of the season. Tears of joy instead of tears of despair of a year ago.

Under The Radar
(During baseball’s offseason, will preview some of the Phillies minor league players who are under the radar. These young prospects are not listed on the MLBpipeline.com list of top 30 prospects but are still considered potential big leaguers).

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RHP Drew Anderson . . . R-R . . . 6-3, 185 . . . Will be 23 next March . . . 21st round selection in 2012 draft out of Galena HS (Reno, NV); signed by Joey Davis . . . 2012: Began pro career with GCL Phillies . . . 2013: Led Williamsport in wins (6), innings (76.1) and ERA (2.00) . . . 2014: Made 6 starts at Lakewood and 2 in GCL on rehab when shutdown 7/31 with right elbow strain . . . 2015: Missed entire season following Tommy John surgery . . . 2016: Following extended spring training, made first start at Lakewood on 5/22. Promoted to Clearwater 7/10. One of three pitchers in a combined no-hitter in his debut vs. St. Lucie Mets in Bright House Field. Threw 4 scoreless innings when the rains came. Lifted after a 44-minute with Will Morris and Victor Arano completing the historic outcome. Finished the season, 3-4, 2.70 ERA for 15 starts; fanned 78 in 70 innings; 1.10 WHIP.

Unbreakable Records

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(Photo: 1956 spring training, courtesy of Bob Warrington.)

Richie Ashburn was a two-time batting champion during his Phillies career (1948-59), a .311 batting average in 1,794 games. He put up a lot of numbers both offensively and defensively. He has two career and two single-season records that will be difficult to match or surpass.

Consecutive Game Playing Streak (730 games)
The speedy centerfielder began streak on July 7, 1950. It ended when he couldn’t start the 1955 season opener. He and Del Ennis collided during a spring training game in Wilmington, DE, that year. Ashburn injured a knee and was out of the lineup when the season started. The Phillies previous record was 533 games by first-baseman Fred Luderus, June 12, 1916 until the 1920 season opener.

730 games seem safe because current players just don’t seem as durable. Whitey’s streak pales in comparison to baseball’s all-time record, 2,632 straight games by Cal Ripken Jr. Then again, no one ever thought Lou Gehrig’s streak (2,130) that ended in 1939 would topple.

Fewest Grounded Into Double Plays (GIDP), Season (1, 1948)

As far as GIDP, Ashburn hit into only one in 530 plate appearances in his rookie season. Unbreakable. The major league record is 0, 646 at-bats by Augie Galan, Chicago Cubs in 1935.

Ironically, Whitey shares the club record for most GIDP in a game, three. It occurred in San Francisco’s Seals Stadium, June 28, 1959, against left-hander John Antonelli. For those of you keeping score, all were 4-6-3. Knowing Ashburn, each was a rocket ground ball. Joe Torre holds the major league record, four, July 21, 1975.

Phun Fact
Richie Ashburn was an All-Star centerfielder who played left field in the first major league game he ever saw, opening day (1948); ended his career at second base with the Mets (1962). His first hit came in his first game off Johnny Sain; his 2,000th hit off Carlton Willey; his Phillies record hit (#2,111) off Bob Buhl and his last hit as Phillie also off Buhl. All three pitched for the Braves. His very last hit in the majors came in his last at-bat. The pitcher? Buhl, then with the Cubs. Every one of these hits was a single. During his 15-year career in the majors with the Phillies, Cubs and Mets, the only uniform number he wore was #1.

(A weekend without baseball. Bah humbug. Next post: Tuesday).

Grass Seeds to Sunflower Seeds

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(Wednesday’s Weekly Reader….third in a series of folks behind the scenes with the Phillies. Mike Boekholder, Director of Field Operations, overseeing everything on the playing field from seeding rye grass to sweeping sunflower seeds).

The smell of hot dogs on the grill, the sound of vendors hawking scorecards and the sight of a plush green playing field. Those three senses are what fans experience upon walking through the Citizens Bank Park gates. Credit for the green field rests with Mike Boekholder, Director, Field Operations, and his merry crew of five fulltime groundskeepers and an additional 12-14 game-day troops.

Having spent five years doing the same job at Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians of the International League, Mike’s phone rang early in the 2003 season. The call was from the Phillies wanting to employ the Washington state native as the head groundskeeper for their new home. He joined the Phillies that July 1 and oversaw the installation of the park’s first sod in late October and the installation of a state-of-the-art drainage and irrigation systems.

On non-game days, Boekholder arrives at his job around 9 a.m. and will be there “as long as needed to get the job done,” he says. Game days: 10 a.m. until about an hour after the game has ended. “A lot depends on the weather, meaning we may have to cover the field after a game or before leaving when we have no game,” explained Mike. Laughing, “Come to think, weather can affect us a lot.”

During All-Star Game breaks, he and his crew often replace sod behind home plate, an area that gets worn because of batting practice. In September, “We’ll seed with rye and again early the next spring but from June until September the field is strictly Bermuda grass,” he added. Fertilizing is usually done when the team is on the road. Mowing? “Every day when the team is home.” He uses a riding mower to give the crisscross pattern that is so noticeable on the field. Does that qualify as a unique skill or talent? “Probably neither,” he said smiling.

He lives on the field for nine months of the year but also spends time in an office located in the right field corner. Next time you are at the park, look for the window in foul territory on the green outfield wall. He’s the one at the desk which includes a radar monitor and a laptop on his right. A larger screen and keyboard sits on top of a work station on his left. “That controls the irrigation system but I can also control it remotely on my cell phone,” he explained. The room also includes a sofa (“prefect for a short nap”), file drawers, a large framed photo of the park’s first game and a small glass-door refrigerator filled with Coca-Colas. He can watch the game on a large wall-mounted TV or spin around in his chair and peek out the window.

Next to his office is the field entrance for his crew and their equipment, Phillie Phanatic, bands, elephants, whatever. Tucked under Section 108 is the batting cage which gets pulled out pre-game and then stored until tomorrow.

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There’s also a large room labeled “Field Equipment Storage” under the same section of seats. It’s a cross between a John Deere showroom and the garden section of Lowes: John Deere gators, tractors and riding mowers, walk-behind mowers of all sizes plus wheelbarrows, edgers, hoses, field rakes, shovels, brooms, fertilizer spreaders, rollers, fuel and stacks of fertilizer.

Boekholder won’t spend the entire game in his right field office. Under the Diamond Club seats by the third base dugout field entrance is a room labeled Field Maintenance but more commonly known as the “Ready Room.” That’s where he and the grounds crew are stationed ready for in-game work and tarp duty in case of rain. The room is home to three blue leather couches, a large TV, radar monitor and refrigerator. There are field rakes, normal rakes, shovels, brooms, hoses, tampers, extra bases, large squeegees, chalk and red wooden forms for lining the batter’s boxes and foul lines, bags of clay conditioner in case the mound needs in-game work and bags of field conditioner to spread on the dirt if needed after rain. Plus various types of devices to hand-drag the infield. Mike can be spotted on the field during threatening weather informing the umpire crew chief of the situation

He and his crew get the field after batting practice, about 30 minutes prior to game time. The routine includes hand dragging the infield, smoothing dirt at home plate and on the mound, watering the dirt portions and chalking the foul lines and batter’s boxes.

Post-game also has a routine but a longer one. Sixteen members of his crew invade the field about two minutes after the last out. All the activity sort of resembles an ant hill, bodies moving all over the place. Two lonesome souls wonder to the bullpens to do their thing. The crew is armed wtih field rakes, hand-held blowers, wheelbarrows, tampers, shovels, brooms and hoses. The mound, both batter’s boxes and the area where the home plate umpire operates are refurbished with clay and water. The foul lines in the infield and batter’s boxes are removed, one person drags the infield riding a John Deer bunker rake, another chap removes the three bases and hand-rakes those areas, two guys armed with blowers on their backs blow dirt from grass areas back onto the dirt, one person is assigned to the warning track in front of each dugout smoothing the dirt with hand rakes. Yet another crew member fertilizes various grass areas following an obvious pattern and never colliding with a fellow worker. There’s also a person in left field with a broom and shovel. “Got to get rid of sunflower seed shells. A broom and shovel is the best way,” he explained. Watering the infield and covering the mound and home plate with round tarps ends the day.

How often is the home plate and pitching rubber changed? “There’s no set schedule. After Josh Beckett’s no-hitter in 2014, he wanted the pitching rubber. So we dug it up after the game and replaced it. We also replaced if after Aaron Nola’s first game in 2015,” Boekholder says.

December is down time for Mike and his full-time crew. “We generally can work on the field up until Thanksgiving.” In January, there are conferences and an MLB groundskeepers’ meetings to attend. February is the time to order supplies, purchase equipment, hire game-day staff (“We hire 25 and rotate them during the season.”), order uniforms for everyone and finalize the maintenance plan for the season. Weather permitting, they are back on the field in March getting ready for another season.

Raking, watering, seeding, fertilizing and mowing…is that also the routine at his home? “Nope, my wife does that. She’s better at it.”

(Looking for an Election Day gift? My newest book, Fightin’ Phils, would be perfect. Book was published in April by Triumph Books and available online or in book stores. One of the eight chapters is Behind The Scenes).

 

Freddy, Odubel in Line for Gold?

Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. Rawlings Gold Glove winners at their respective positions, shortstop and center-field, on the Phillies two World Championship clubs, 1980 and 2008.

freddyodubel

Rawlings announced that Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera (photos: philly.com) are among the finalists for a Gold Glove in the National League. Defense up the middle was key in 1980 and 2008 and again as the Phillies build.

Joining Galvis in the shortstop mix is the Giants’ Brandon Crawford, the reigning Gold Glove, and the Cubs’ Addison Russell. Herrera’s center field competition includes the Reds’ Bill Hamilton and Braves’ Ender Inciarte.

Winners will be announced on ESPN TV at 8 p.m. ET, November 9. Just think, that will be the first night of no political TV spots. Hooray!!

The award represents overall fielding excellence, and it is not based solely on fielding metrics and statistics, nor does it factor offensive production. Managers and coaches in each league vote but cannot include their own players. In 2013, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the selection process, as part of its collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The SABR Defensive Index comprises approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote carrying the majority.

Not sure what stats and metrics will be used but Galvis led the three NL candidates in fewest errors (8), highest fielding percentage (.987) and putouts (210) in 1,350 innings. Crawford had the most total chances (633 to Freddy’s 622) and Russell, most assists (413 to Freddy’s 407). A year ago Galvis had 17 errors in 625 chances. His 8 errors are the fewest for any of his full seasons of pro ball, majors or minors.

Herrera played 1,301.1 innings in centerfield and had the most putouts (372), assists (11), double plays (4) and errors (9) among the three NL finalists. The errors frighten me.

Odubel also led in total zone runs (16). That also frightens me because I have no idea what that is. So I checked the glossary of advanced fielding for total zone runs: “The number of runs above or below average the fielder was worth per 1,200 Innings (approx. 135 games). This number combines the Rtz, Rdp, Rof, Rcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution.” That explanation makes it even more frightening.

Advanced fielding also says of his nine errors, six were fielding and three throwing. Hey, that I understand.

Odubel’s defense in centerfield has been impressive. He was signed as a second baseman-shortstop at age 17 by the Rangers in 2009. His first exposure to center field was two games at Myrtle Beach in 2014 and 52 total games in Venezuela winter ball in 2014-15. Basically, he was playing a new position in his rookie season in the majors a year ago.

Gold Glove Phun Fact
Rawlings first began honoring defensive excellence in 1957. Phillies shortstops who have won the award: Bobby Wine (1963), Ruben Amaro Sr. (1964), Larry Bowa (1978) and Jimmy Rollins (2007-08-09; 2012).

And, center-fielders: Garry Maddox (1975-76-77-78-79-80-81-82), Aaron Rowand (2007) and Shane Victorino (2008-9-10).

Player Development
Reading RF Dylan Cozens, the 2016 Joe Bauman Award winner as the minor leagues’ long ball leader (40), has been selected as the MiLBy Top Offensive player. On top of his home runs, the Eastern League MVP led the minors with 125 RBIs, 308 total bases and 81 extra-base hits, led double-A players with 106 runs scored and a .591 slugging percentage and led the EL with 38 doubles. In four postseason games, he was 6-for-15 (.400) with a homer and three doubles.

Tommy Joseph (Leones del Escogido), Alec Asher and Rhys Hoskins (Gigantes del Cibao) and Andrew Knapp and Cozens (Aguilas Cibaenas) have begun playing in the Dominican Winter League. Jorge Alfaro (Tiburones de La Guaira) and Elvis Araujo (Aguilas del Zulia) are in the Venezuela Winter League. C Austin Bossart has been added to the Scottsdale roster in the AFL. That league’s

Overall, the Phillies have 13 players in the VWL, 11 in the DWL, four in the Colombian League and two in Puerto Rico.

2B Scott Kingery (AFL, Scottsdale) has a modest three-game hitting streak, 6-12, boosting his average to .261 following a slow start. He is on the East team that will meet the West in the annual Fall Stars Game is this Saturday (November 5) on the MLB Network and MLBTV, 8 p.m. ET.

Vintage Photo
Tom McGuigan sent in this photo, a classic image.

1915-ws

Phillies fans are gathered at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Margaret Street in the Frankford section of Philadelphia to watch the score being posted of Game 2 of the 1915 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Phillies in Baker Bowl.

The score is posted on the side of the building (under the second-floor windows) in the background. A bit difficult to see but there is a ladder (behind the white street lights) propped against the building for someone to climb and post the score. One can only surmise the fans have their backs to the building because they are posing for a photographer. Tom says he has the photo because his grandfather is among group.

Statistical Randomness
Hector Neris faced 328 batters this year and struck out 102. That’s 11.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. Vince Velasquez was second on the club, 10.4. Phillies staff average was 8.1.