Honing Their Skills
CLEARWATER—While four teams are left in major league baseball’s glamorous hunt for October, a group of young prospects continues to hone their skills in the peace and quiet of the Florida Instructional League.
The Phillies again have a group of players (37) participating in the program that began in mid-September and ends on October 18. For many of the players, they are exhausted both mentally and physically from the long baseball season. Spring training for the minor leaguers began in March. Players drafted and signed in June are playing their most baseball ever.
Camp takes place at Carpenter Field, where the day can begin for some with extra instruction as early as 7:45 a.m. All players are on the Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt fields from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, when it is lunch time.
During the morning workout, the players are dressed in blue shorts and gray t-shirts. Names are on the back of the shirts in blue letters. The staff wears red shorts and gray shirts. Some of the staff also have gray hair.
Fundamentals, batting practice and bunting are part of the daily routine. During BP, one player bunts against a pitching machine stationed behind the homeplate backstop while two others are hitting in the cage.
Afternoons are games against other teams, the Devil Rays, Pirates, Blue Jays and Yankees. Phillies home games are held at Bright House Networks Field.
Today’s crowd for the morning workout numbered three ….three baseball scouts. For the game this afternoon against the Pirates, the number of scouts tripled. Fans totaled about two dozen.
For a couple of infielders, changing positions has been the agenda: Adrian Cardenas, a sandwich pick shortstop in June, is splitting time between his natural position and second base while C. J. Henry, a shortstop acquired from the Yankees in the Bobby Abreu trade, is getting time at third base.
The roster includes a #6 and a #26. No, Ryan Howard (6) and Chase Utley (26) are not here. Early in their pro careers, they were. This fall, #6 is a 19-year-old Australian catcher named Tim Kennelly. #26 belongs to first-year outfielder Ken Milner, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder. Both Kennelly and Milner played at Batavia during the summer.
There are 19 players under the age of 20. The youngest is shortstop Freddy Galvis, a 16-year-old from Venezuela. The FIL is his first taste of pro ball.
One of the 17-year-olds is RHP Heitor Correa whom the Phillies signed a year ago out of Brazil.
There’s a global flavor with players from Australia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic as well as Brazil.