The kid from Peru (IL) came through. Yes, big time last night and. The offense gave him a four-run cushion before he threw a pitch and the Phillies tacked on their sixth straight win.
You can read all you want about J. A. Happ and his outing on this site and other media outlets.
For a different perspective, Phillies Insider contacted Rod Nichols, Happ’s pitching coach the last three seasons in the minor leagues.
Rod makes his home in Helena, MT, which is 2,113 miles from Atlanta. Was the professor able to watch the pupil?
“Didn’t miss a pitch,” Rod said enthusiastically. “We don’t have cable TV out here in the mountains. But, we have direct TV and I can watch the Phillies games.
“It was a lot of fun watching Jay pitch.” Laughing, he added “My wife (Sharon) thought something was wrong with me mentally because I got so excited when he threw a 3-2 cutter to Chipper. When I saw that he trusted his cutter, I knew he would do well. When you trust in your pitches, good things happen.”
J. A. had a tough year in 2007 but rebounded this year. “He had a healthy arm this year,” quickly responded Rod. “It was such a big difference. Last year, he couldn’t do his side work or extra work. He has a great work ethic and is very smart. When talking to him about pitching, he will challenge you at times. You better have a very logical, sound explanation for your beliefs.
“He was a real pleasure to work with this season. Needless to say, I’m rooting for him big time.”
Nichols, a 12-year pro pitcher with 7 years in the big leagues, has been a pitching coach in the Phillies system since 2000. The 43-year-old doesn’t get to spend much time at home. He reported to Clearwater in the middle of February and is home now for the winter.
“The Phillies are a great organization,” he volunteered. “They give us some time off during the season to go home. I actually saw much son play in a game and was able to make it for my daughter’s high school graduation.”
Riding buses, small clubhouses, long games, riding buses, numerous roster changes, small crowds….did I mention riding buses? Guys like Rod put in long hours trying to develop players for the big leagues. Highly important, but a no glamour job.
Seeing J. A. perform makes all those hours worthwhile.
The Phillies need a fifth starter again on Monday at home against the Braves. Happ is a logical choice. Rod will be tuned in again.
In Phillies history….
1963: LHP Chris Short beats Mets, 5-1, in the final game ever played in New York’s Polo Grounds.