June 2007

Inside the Draft

June 8, 2007

As time and life march one, changes take place.  There’s been quite a change from the first summer draft in baseball and yesterday’s event.

The first one took place in 1965.  All the clubs were in the ballroom of the Commodore Hotel in New York City.  Teams sat around round tables and make their selections. 

The Phillies’ first selection ever was RHP Mike Adamson from San Diego, CA.  We couldn’t sign him and he was re-drafted two years later by the Orioles.  His big league career amounted to 11 appearances over parts of three seasons.

Of the 33 players the Phillies selected, three made it to the majors, Larry Hisle, Billy Champion and Terry Harmon.

For the first time, the draft was televised yesterday from the Milk House at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.  The draft took place on the floor of the gymnasium with fans observing from seating areas on both sides of the upper level.

There was no ESPN 38 years ago, no MLB.com, no computers, no big screen TVs to display photos and video of the top draft picks and fans were allowed in the Commodore Hotel.  Agents didn’t even exist and the signability of a prospect wasn’t as big as it is now.

The role of a baseball scout has also changed.  Back then, a scout was more than a person who evaluated players and made projections, not an easy job.  Prior to the draft, scouts were also salesmen.  They schmoozed mom, dad, brothers and sisters of a prospect to try and gain an edge when it was time to sit down in the living room with a check book.

Salesmanship is still important today but if a certain player is drafted by another club, that salesmanship goes out the window.

Major League Baseball requested three persons for each club’s station yesterday.  Robin Roberts, Dallas Green and Lee McDaniel (Assistant Director, Minor League Operations/Florida) represented the Phillies. 

Among the others in the room were Frank Howard, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Tommy Lasorda, Don Zimmer, Dave Winfield, Chet Lemon, Frank Robinson and a handful of Phillies Alumni, Bobby Dernier, Rico Brogna, Rob Ducey and Bob Walk.

Bullpen Meltdowns
The Phillies have been searching to add depth to their bullpen since the end of the last season.  The commodity is rare; those that have quality won’t give it up, unless a team wants to overwhelm somebody.

As has been mentioned, the Phillies have some interest in Troy Percival and Jose Mesa, two veterans who are out there. 

Until Brett Myers and Tom Gordon return, the Phillies will need to hang in there and search under every stone for more bullpen depth.

Just check yesterday’s results.  There were six games lost in the bullpen, Mets (Phillies swept New York by getting to the bullpen each game), Nationals (one run in the 9th), Blue Jays (two runs in the 9th), Astros (three runs in the 9th), Dodgers (five runs in the 9th) and White Sox (nine runs in last two innings).

Flash in Clearwater

June 6, 2007

CLEARWATER—No games today in this Florida west coast city.

The Class A Threshers bussed to Daytona at 9:30 this morning for a four-game series.  Last night, prospects LHP Joshua Outman, SS Jason Donald and CF Greg Golson led the Threshers to an 8-0 win over the Palm Beach Cardinals at Bright House Networks Field.

Outman improved to 5-3, Donald hit a three-run homer in his second Clearwater game since being promoted from Lakewood, and Golson also homered.

Next door at Carpenter Field, the players who are in extended spring training worked out on two fields and then some of them climbed aboard an 11:30 a.m. bus for St. Petersburg and an afternoon game against the Devil Rays.   Those not on the traveling roster, worked out on Ashburn Field.

Players in the extended program are those who didn’t make the rosters of the Phillies’ four full-season clubs in early April.  In 13 days, two Phillies’ short-season teams, Williamsport (New York-Penn League) and the Gulf Coast Phillies, will begin their seasons.  The Gulf Coast team will play at Carpenter Field.

A total of 44 players are in the extended spring training program.

Also in Clearwater are 15 players who are rehabbing from injuries.  Brian Cammarota, minor league athletic trainers and rehabilitation coordinator, oversees a staff that works daily with the injured players.  Most of the work is done in the Bright House Networks Field training and weight room areas.

Biggest name among the 15 is Tom Gordon, the Phillies closer.  He’s on a program of throwing 75-80 pitches a day for five days.  Cammarota will even put on the catching gear and catch Gordon.  “You get a different perspective when you are catching.  So far, I’m OK, but ‘Flash’ is getting to the point where I’ll bow out and a regular catcher will step in.  I’m not totally crazy, you know.”

Following a weight room workout, Gordon said “I’m getting closer.  I’m feeling much better physically than I have in a long time.”  You may remember, in addition to being disabled May 24 with a right rotator cuff inflammation, Gordon spent nearly five days in a Philly hospital with an upper respiratory ailment that flattened him.  He lost weight but is on the road to recovery.

The rehab group also includes Scott Mathieson and Kyle Drabek.  Mathieson is recovering from Tommy John surgery from last September and Drabek is rehabbing a tender right elbow.  Kyle has two more days here before he returns to the Lakewood rotation next Tuesday.

And, there’s a named Schmidt.  No, not Michael Jack, but Daniel, a left-handed pitcher from Australia.

Tomorrow’s the annual First-Year Player Draft, day one, starting at 2 in the afternoon on ESPN2.

The draft will also impact what goes on in Clearwater next week.  More about that on Friday.

Jack Russell Stadium Update

June 5, 2007

CLEARWATER—Another era in Phillies history is about to disappear.

City Council last night said they are ready to demolish Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, the Phillies spring training home from 1955-2003.  The final vote will be taken at Thursday’s meeting.

The park was also the home of the Clearwater Bombers, a professional softball team, and concerts, including the Rolling Stones in 1965.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times today, restoring the facility would be too costly.  Somewhere in the next 60 days, the main, original grandstand will be demolished. 

Aluminum bleachers beyond third and first bases, the playing field, the half-field beyond the right field wall as well as the Phillies former clubhouse will remain.  The Winning Inning Academy baseball program will continue to operate camps and tournaments for youngsters and the Boys and Girls club will continue to use a building on the site.

Kids that appeared to be between the ages of 4 and 6 were on the field this afternoon during one of the camps.  A solitary mother occupied a seat in the first base aluminum stands, in a section once known as “Whale Beach.”  Why Whale Beach?  It was the area where a bunch of chunky, portly, beefy writers used to honker down for the games.  Shirtless, the writers could get a tan, something that couldn’t be accomplished in the Press Box. 

The outfield walls, once full of painted advertising signs, are solid green.  The building behind home plate that housed the ticket office remains cream colored but there were no signs listing the schedule and ticket prices.  Those signs, including a 1980 World Champion Phillies sign, were removed a couple years ago.  Dark lettering still exists above the ticket windows, “Jack Russell Memorial Stadium.”

All the seats on the third base side of the grandstand are gone.  The seat removal process is sweeping from third base to first base.  Yellow tape seals off the entire grandstand.  Big trash containers are stationed on the ground-level concourse.  Eventually, the concrete and steel structure will be reduced to a pile of rubble that will be carted away.

The cost of building the ballpark was $317,653.  The demolition estimate is $104,280. 

Robin Roberts pitched the first game there, March 10, 1955. 

Three Phillies homes, Connie Mack Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, will be extinct.  Fortunately, memories are eternal.

Hollywood Ending

June 4, 2007, 10:30 a.m.

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Werth, lf; Rowand, cf; Helms, 3b; Barajas, c; Lieber, p.

Today’s Weather
Those famous lingering thundershowers and showers are in the forecast.  Some showers will linger away from Citizens Bank Park.  Gates will open at normal times, 10:35 for Ashburn Alley; 11:35 for the others.

Hollywood Script
When the promotions team met last November, they were looking for different items as give-aways.  Someone came up with the idea of a Shane Victorino figurine, Hawaiian stile to pay tribute to the outfielder’s heritage.  Shane was born in Wailuku, HI, 26 years ago.

Yesterday was the day for children 14 and under to receive the Victorino Hula Figurine.  Down, the Phillies rallied to take the lead.  Down, the Giants rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth.

That set the stage for a script that could only have been written in Hollywood. Victorino stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the score knotted, 8-8.  He hit is first walk-off home run, a drive that landed in the left field seats.  It was the second opposite field home run of his career. 

Rusty Kennedy, the veteran sports photographer for the Associated Press, captured the homeplate celebration so well.  Just check the home page of this site.

The person who delivers shaving cream pies to teammates in such situations, was creamed by Greg Dobbs and Jayson Werth.  Payback is a beautiful thing.

Some employees wore Hawaiian leis, the announcers donned Hawaiian shirts, PA announcer Dan Baker wore a grass skirt (over his Bermudo shorts, thank goodness), player photos on PhanaVision were superimposed in Hawaiian shirts and “Tiny Bubbles” was performed before the game.

Hawaii was on vacation in Citizens Bank Park.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, where a whole stadium was circled around a person’s life or culture,” Victorino told Scott Lauber of the Wilmington News-Journal.  “Hitting a walk-ff was a perfect way to end it.”

The dramatic win improved the Phillies’ Sunday record at Citizens Bank Park to 36-10 . . . Ryan Howard has seven homers among his last 11 hits; 21 RBI in the last 16 games . . . Seems routine, another game, another outfield assist by the Phillies.  Aaron Rowand’s fifth yesterday increased the team’s major-league leading total to 22 . . . 6-14 vs. lefties and southpaw Barry Zito is on the mound this afternoon.   Tom Glavine tomorrow night in New York . . . The Phillies will take busses to the Big Apple after today’s game.

Did You Know?
Who hit the most career homers vs. the Phillies?

Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks hit 67 each; Barry Bonds is next with 64.

Hamels Gem

June 3, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Burrell, lf; Dobbs, 3b; Rowand, cf; Ruiz, c; Garcia, p.

Today’s Game
Game is on with potential weather factors later in the afternoon.  Ashburn Alley gates open at 11:05 p.m.; other gates, 11:35 a.m.  Neither team is taking batting practice as the tarp is on the field.

Looking Back
Cole Hamels turned in a complete game gem last night.  In his lat 11 starts at Citizens Bank Park, he’s 8-1. 

Five years ago, the Phillies selected Cole as their number one pick.  He was the 17th overall selection. Thought it would be interesting to look back at the press release: 

Pitching for Rancho Bernardo High School, the 18-year-old Hamels finished with a 10-0 record and 0.39 ERA.  He struck out 130 in 71.1 innings.

Hamels, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, was ranked as the seventh best pitcher in BASEBALL AMERICA’s top 100 prospects.  In the Southern California region, BA ranked Hamels second to high school shortstop Scott Myers.

Phillies southern California area scout Darrell Conner followed Hamels’ career.  He was one of seven Phillies scouts who saw every start Hamels made this year.

“Solid average-to-plus across the board with command of all three pitches.  See him as a top-flight starter.  Has impact-type stuff.  Will move quickly through the system,” said Conner on one of his reports. 
Scouting Director Marti Wolever saw Hamels pitch three times this spring.  “He may have the best feel and mound presence of any high school pitcher.  He’s an outstanding competitor with plus stuff.  Has a chance to be a quality starter at the Major League level.”

This Year’s Draft
The annual draft will start at 2 p.m. on Thursday.  The first round and supplemental selections will be televised live for the first time on ESPN2 from Orlando. 

Representing the Phillies will be Robin Roberts, Dallas Green, Lee McDaniel and yours truly.  Scouting director Marti Wolever and his staff will be in the Draft Room on the Hall of Fame Club level at Citizens Bank Park.  Five rounds are expected to be completed on Thursday with the remaining rounds to take place on Friday.

The Phillies have the 19th, 37th, 84th, 108th, 114th, 144th and 174th selections in the first five rounds.  The 37th and 108th selections are the result of compensation for Cleveland’s signing of free agent outfielder David Dellucci.

The entire draft will be live on MLB.com.

Topping 1 Million

June 2, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Werth, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Burrell, lf; Rowand, cf; Nunez, 3b; Barajas, c; Hamels, p.

Blown Out
For the first time since last September, the Phillies were shut out, the last team in the NL this year to get blanked.  That leaves the Tigers and Orioles as the only teams that haven’t been shut out.

One thing about a blow out, it is over.  In baseball, you are right back at ‘em the next day.  In pro football the agony lasts a week. 

As of 3 this afternoon, less than 1,500 tickets plus standing room were available for tonight.  For Sunday afternoon, around 5,000 tickets plus SR are available.  Children 14 and under will receive a PECO Shane Victorino Hula Figurine tomorrow.

Tonight’s crowd will push the Phillies over the 1 million mark, the 27th home date.  The only time in team history that 1 million was reached more quickly was in 2004, the 25th date.

The Phillies will be the fifth NL team to reach one million, joining the Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Giants and Cubs.

Still No. 1
While the offense has struggled (12 total runs) on this four-game losing streak, the longest of the season for the Phillies, they sill rank No. 1 in runs scored with 274, one run ahead of the Marlins.

National TV
ESPN has selected the July 1 Mets-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park as a Sunday Night Telecast.  Game time will be switched from 1:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.

Barry In Town

June 1, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Burrell, lf; Dobbs, 3b; Rowand, cf; Ruiz, c; Eaton, p.

Tonight’s Weather
Forecasts call for brief, scattered thundershowers in the early evening, 30-40 percent.  It also means there is a 60-70 percent change of nothing.

Barry Bonds
Barry’s march toward the all-time home run record continues this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.  How many of the four games he will play, isn’t known at this time.  During the Phillies’ four-game series in San Francisco four weekends ago, Bonds played in three of the games. 

Barry vs. the Phillies:
Home runs   64
Citizens Bank Park HR  2
Veterans Stadium HR  27
2-HR games   10
Grand slams   1 (7/23/97)
4-hit games   3
5-RBI games   3

Bonds’ Milestone Homers
1 6/4/86  at Atlanta, Craig McMurtry
100 7/12/90  vs. San Diego, Andy Benes
200 7/8/93  at Phillies, Jose DeLeon
300 4/27/96  vs. Florida, John Burkett
400 8/23/98  at Florida, Kirt Ojala
500 4/17/01  vs. LA Dodgers, Terry Adams
600 8/9/02  vs. Pittsburgh, Kip Wells
700 9/17/04  vs. San Diego, Jake Peavy
715 5/28/06  vs. Colorado, Byung-Hyun Kim

National TV
ESPN today chose the Phillies-Mets game from Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, July 1, as a Sunday Night Telecast.  Game time will be switched from 1:35 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.