There are so many memories of Jim. Probably the one that stands out happened in the Executive Dining Room at the Vet years ago. We were having lunch before a trade announcement. I brought up some questions he may get asked. He slid his reading glasses to the end of his nose, looked me in the eye and said, “Baron, I don’t need your coaching.” He was right.
Scouting for the Braves, he was a frequent visitor at Bright House Field during spring training. It was an easy trip as he lived about 10 miles away. Walking into the media lunchroom, you could hear Jim holding court at one of the round tables. He was never sitting alone. Never. It was an empty feeling walking into that room this morning, looking over where he used to sit and realizing the table will now be empty.
When we saluted the 1993 NL champions during Alumni weekend last year, Jim arranged his scouting schedule to be there. He loved his players and they loved him back. Seemed as if he was laughing all weekend long. He really enjoyed being with his team. Never thought that would be the last time he would be with the bunch.
Seven years ago, he delivered a eulogy at John Vukovich’s memorial service. We cried then. Now, we’re crying again. Yes, there is crying in baseball.
On a breezy, 56-degree day, spring training officially got underway this morning.
Twenty-eight pitchers and six catchers left the Bright House Clubhouse around 10 and headed for the four diamonds on at Carpenter Complex. Usual stretching and long tossing were the first order of business.
Pitchers are divided into four groups. Groups 1 and 2 threw off the seven mounds. Other two groups will do the same tomorrow.
Biggest attention-getter this morning was Miguel Gonzalez. At one point, 20 people—coaches, Green, Gillick, Wade, Kerfeld, minor league instructors—were all eyes on the right-hander. Included were Larry Andersen and Roy Halladay, guest instructors. First typo of the spring was Andersen’s jersey….Anderson. It was immediately corrected.
Meanwhile, a large group of position players took batting practice at Bright House Field. Their first official day is Tuesday.
Workout ended at 1:30. Ruben and his staff, Ryne and all the coaches and instructors then met at Carpenter Complex. Last fall, the Phillies had an organization meeting which included discussion and direction for the various disciplines of the game. For the next six days, this group will meet to review and fine-tune the topics. Today’s topic was catching.
Appreciate the comment from Steve, a long-time reader, about the list of alumni announcers in yesterday’s post. Source for the list was the Phillies media guide so I’ll have to check on the other names Steve mentioned.
Praying For Fregosi
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim Fregosi and his family. We all learned yesterday Jim suffered a stroke while on a cruise. Jim resides in nearby Tarpon Springs, FL, and was a frequent visitor at Bright House Field, scouting for the Braves.
In the past year, the 1993 team has taken a hit….cancer for Daulton, Pratt and Schilling and now Jim.
Jeter To Retire
Derek Jeter announced he’s retiring at the end of this season. He’ll have an emotional-farewell tour.
The Phillies don’t play A. L. east teams this year so the only chance we will have at seeing him one last time is this spring training. The Phillies and Yankees play three times, one at Bright House Field (March 6). Hopefully, he’ll make that short trip from Tampa. It would be neat for Phillies fans to salute him.
J-Roll will become the longest-tenured shortstop next season.
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote an interesting article about Jeter, the fifth player selected in the first round of the 1992 draft. Houston, Cleveland, Montreal, Baltimore and Cincinnati all passed on Derek, who has been on five World Series champions. None of those five teams has won a world title since.
Spring Training Fun Fact
Lunch for players in spring training in 1947 consisted of one sandwich and one small milk. Today, a chef from Lenny’s Restaurant serves breakfast in the Bright House Field clubhouse lunch room every morning starting at 6.
More meetings this morning, golf in the afternoon and then it all starts tomorrow for pitchers and catchers.
It was strange seeing Roy Halladay sitting in the room yesterday morning when Ruben and Ryne began a day-long meeting. When Doc walked in, Bowa asked, “Sure you can’t pitch this season?” Doc smiled, “I’m pretty sure.” Doc will be in camp for a couple of weeks working with pitchers.
Ruben said he and Ryne brought in Doc along with Sarge, LA, Hollins and Lidge for a purpose, to individually work with the players
Ryne spoke about his passion for the game and playing the game right. There will be some changes in the way the players go about things from Day 1. A fresh new approach is in store. Daily spring training schedule comes under third base coach Pete Mackanin.
Ryne relayed a story about his first experience with the Phillies. “Thirty-five years ago I was here in the minor league camp for first time. Stayed at the Days Inn up the road. Took the first morning bus to this complex. Got off the bus and there was Pete Rose hitting in the cages. I’m 19 years old. I just stood and watched. He never swung and missed. Never hit the ball on the ground. Line drives after line drives into the netting. I thought you can be the best you want to be, but never be out-worked.”
First workout begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Carpenter Field. Daily practices are open to the public, free admission and free parking.
Tomorrow is also the first day individual game tickets go on sale at Citizens Bank Park and phillies.com.
As has been reported Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs are the new TV announcers, joining Tom McCarthy. First Grapefruit League game (Blue Jays at Bright House Field) is two weeks away and that’s the first telecast.
Who have been other Alumni to appear in the Phillies broadcast booth? Gee, glad you asked.
Richie Ashburn was the first, starting in 1963. Since then, Robin Roberts, Tim McCarver, Garry Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Jim Fregosi, Jay Johnstone, Kent Tekulve, Larry Andersen, John Kruk and Gary Matthews.
Repeating a note from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark: This is the first season since 1962 that Ashburn, Harry Kalas or Chris Wheeler has not been part of the broadcasting team.
Did You Know?
Kalas’ first game as a broadcaster with the Houston Colt 45s was 1965, the inaugural game in the Astrodome. The opponent? The Phillies.
Spring Training Fun Fact
The Phillies have been training in Clearwater, FL, since 1947. What team did they replace?
Check out http://www.phillies.com/alumni for a feature that explains how the Phillies landed in Clearwater and a list of other spring training sites.
Jack Russell Memorial Stadium (pictured above) is one of three parks the Phillies have had in Clearwater.
Neat plans for celebrating 10 years at Citizens Bank Park. You have a week to prepare your top 10 moments and then you can vote on this website (February 18 through March 14). Will be interesting to see the choices.
Gee, wonder what will be the greatest moment. Probably the same as the top moment at Veterans Stadium during the first 10 years there.
Unofficial workouts among players again on another sunny day. Players are eager and anxious and that’s good.
Pitchers and catchers officially report on tomorrow and take physicals. First workout for that group is Thursday, same day that individual game tickets go on sale for Citizens Bank Park games.
First full squad workout is a week from today.
Larry Bowa was the first to visit the trainer’s room. Got hit on the left temple by Roly deArmas’ fungo bat yesterday. No stitches needed, just butterfly bandage.
Looking for a perfect gift for your sweetheart?
Phillies tickets, Phanatic dangle hat, red Phillies cap, Phillies chapstick or be a big spender, airline tickets to Clearwater. Just don’t pack any snow in your suitcase.
“Very overwhelmed at the well wishes and prayers. Bless all of you. No pity or sympathy needed, I’ve been beyond blessed. I’m ready for this.”
Spring Training Fun Fact
70 years ago the Phillies held spring training in Wilmington, DE. Government transportation department prohibited teams from training in the south during WW II.
New edition is posted on http://www.phillies.com/alumni
Just look for Charlie Manuel’s photo.
No speeding tickets, no flat tires. Yep, the “Clearwater or bust” equipment truck made it to Bright House Field on Saturday. The empty truck headed for Alabama for a load that needed to go back north.
Clearwater mayor George Cretekos even helped unload the truck.
Scott Palmer’s video feature about the arrival appears on this website, if you haven’t seen it. Scott will be posting video features throughout spring training. Beat writer Todd Zolecki will be filling daily stories, tweeting, facebooking and blogging. Phillies Insider is now Monday through Friday (Hey, senior citizens get weekends off). Still photography by Miles Kennedy.
Phillies.com is your place for Phillies spring training complete and comprehensive coverage.
Something like 36 players worked out today.
10 .m. scene had Larry Bowa, arms folded, standing near third base watching Cody Asche taking ground balls on the half-field. Mickey Morandini and Roly deArmas took turns hitting grounders with Ryne Sandberg observing at home plate.
First basemen were Ryan Howard and Darrin Ruf. Reid Brignac and Andres Blanco were also working out on the same field.
Ruben Jr. will oversee a meeting in the second-floor meeting room at Carpenter Complex starting at 11 a.m. His staff, Ryne and his coaches and all extra instructors, athletic trainers, clubhouse personnel and front office executives will be in the meeting.
“Meat” of the meeting is a discussion of every player in camp. Health issues, if there are any, will be brought to everyone’s attention.
Wednesday is a half-day with Bill Giles’ annual golf outing for the staff taking place in the afternoon
Prayers and Thoughts
Everyone with the Phillies sends their heartfelt thoughts to Curt Schilling, who let it be known he is battling cancer.
Curt is the fourth from the 1993 NL championship club with cancer issues, John Kruk, Todd Pratt and Darren Daulton.
Today: LHP Larry McWilliams (60), OF Lenny Dykstra (51), C Lenny Webster (49), INF Kevin Sefcik (43) . . . Tomorrow: OF Ollie Brown (70) . . . Wednesday: Ruben Amaro Jr. (49), RHP Dennis Springer (49) . . . Thursday: SS Kevin Stocker (44), LHP Mike Mimbs (45) . . . Friday: INF Larry Milbourne (58) . . .Sunday: C Barry Foote (62).
Spring Training Fun Fact
Well, 50 years ago, my first spring training. All of us—five from the front office, players, coaches, manager, writers and broadcasters—stayed at the Jack Tar Hotel. Players without their families roomed with another teammate.
10 Years Ago
Citizens Bank Park was undergoing finishing touches at this time of the year while Veterans Stadium was prepping for implosion in March. For a vintage aerial photo of the two facilities check out http://www.phillies.com/alumni
Toyota Alumni weekend has become a very popular event for fans and our former players. It certainly will continue that way. Charlie will be here and so will a new, younger generation of Alumni.
In speaking with him, he’s really excited and tremendously honored. “I had great support from ownership plus Ed Wade, Pat Gillick and Ruben Jr. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the players. You know that, right? Hey, this is good.”
Once a fan target, he’s now revered and as popular as a rock star. “The years I spent in Philadelphia were some of the best of my professional career and I owe a lot of that to the fans. I have said this before, but they are the best in the game.”
Normally, a three-year waiting period following retirement is required before an Alumnus can be placed on the on-line ballot. The Phillies waived that regulation and by-passed the fan ballot this year as they had done in 1989 and 1990 when Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt were inducted. The greatest pitcher and greatest player in our history deserved the exceptions. As the greatest manager, Charlie deserves the same respect. Fan balloting will return in 2015.
For years Charlie witnessed the WOF act. Now he’s the act.
Charlie joins Dallas Green as the only managers in the Wall, managers of world-champion clubs in Philly. Both have white hair. Guess that comes from managing.
Individual tickets go on sale February 13, the first day of spring training, a day Charlie’s missing for the first time since 2004. Alumni weekend will be a hot ticket.
So will be the fifth annual Alumni Luncheon for Seniors on Friday noon, August 8. More information on that event, including ticket sales, will be forthcoming during the season.
We were privileged to be around this humble man for eight-plus seasons. He took us places we’ve never been. Thanks for the ride, Charlie.
Now that the footballs and yellow penalty flags have been packed away, it’s time for the Phillies equipment truck to be packed for a journey south to Clearwater’s Bright House Field.
Event takes place this Thursday. For more on this event and items to be packed, check out http://phillies.mlblogs.com/
What’s missing from the list is one blue tub of summer-like clothing…mine. Couldn’t fit in the car so the truck gets this highly-valuable tub.
So spring is coming, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicted on Sunday. Time for an equipment truck to replace this famous groundhog in predicting the weather! John Mizerock, Phillies new assistant hitting coach, lives in the same town as the groundhog. Wonder if John saw his shadow on Sunday.
Infielder Michael Young has announced his retirement. So, now he’s officially a member of the Phillies alumni, although his allegiance is with the Rangers where he was a star for 12 years.
He’s a class act and it would have been fun watching him during his prime playing days. He battled last year with the Phillies, always going all out. When you look up the definition of a true professional in the dictionary, you will find his photo. 14 years in the majors, a .300 batting average and no visits to the disabled list. Six times he had 200 or more hits with Texas.
This Week’s Alumni Birthdays
3—OF Bake McBride (65), LHP Mike Wallace (63), RHP Freddie Toliver (53).
4—C Chris Coste (41), LHP Dan Plesac (52)
5—RHP Chris Brock (44), GM Lee Thomas (78)
9—C Todd Pratt (47), RHP Jim Nash (69).
Did You Know
Plesac recorded the last strikeout in the history of Veterans Stadium. He fanned Atlanta CF Ryan Langerhans for the last out in the top of the ninth inning on September 28, 2003, the final game at the Vet.
Well, it is a young pitcher named Dallas Green, who was part of an instructional school prior to the start of the Phillies spring training in 1959 in Clearwater, FL. Read all about the camp at http://www.phillies.com/alumni
During this winter of winter weather, nothing is more welcome than an e-mail from Frank Coppenbarger, Director Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, “The equipment truck will be loaded and depart on the morning of Thursday, February 6.”
Destination: Bright House Field, where the clubhouse is quiet and empty these days. Ruf, Asche, Miguel Gonzalez and Kendrick worked out on Wednesday.
When the truck is unpacked, 59 player lockers will be ready. Ruben and Ryno will have a meeting on February 11 at Carpenter Field with the staff. Two days later pitchers and catchers practice for the first time.
Out in Arizona this week, Marti Wolever, Rob Holiday and the scouting crosscheckers met to prepare plans for the June draft. Division I colleges begin playing on February 14.
This Week’s Birthdays26—3B Rick Schu (52), C Bob Uecker (79)
28—1B Bill White (80)
30—2B Davey Johnson (71)
31—RHP Joel Bennett (44)
1—RHP Bob Conley (80)
Mariana Duncan is a coach for the Daytona Beach Cubs in the Florida State League . . . Warren Brusstar is the pitching coach for Nappa Valley (CA) College . . . Scott Eyre serves in the same capacity for a private high school in his hometown of Bradenton, FL . . . Rod Barajas is the manager of the San Diego Padres team in the Arizona League . . . Kevin Stocker again is a color commentator for the Pac-12 Conference TV network . . . Milt Thompson returns as a minor league instructor for the Kansas City Royals . . . Jared Sandberg (Ryne’s nephew) will manage the Port Charlotte club (Rays).
70 years ago the Phillies held spring training in Wilmington, DE, because of travel restrictions in the USA during World War II. Camp began March 19 and the first workout was snowed out. Will have a feature on this story in March.
There were doctors, lawyers, dentists, Hollywood producers and other passionate fans, including two women, who now are back in their normal world. Last week, they were in Clearwater for the Phillies Phantasy Camp, wearing pinstriped uniforms with their names on the back.
Some were veterans who had been there before, others rookies. Two Alumni were assigned to each of the 10 teams. Among the first-year campers was Governor Ed Rendell, who was the general manager of a team managed by Rheal Cormier and coached by Ricky Jordan.
Most of the 120 campers survived although many returned home with new aches and pains. Brian Keaton, a veteran of the Army who was wounded in Afghanistan and spent a lot of time in the Walter Reed Hospital, participated as best as he could physically. During the week he was able to get four at-bats but he ended up on the DL when he stumbled and separated his right shoulder.
Saturday night was an awards banquet at the Marriott Hotel on Sand Key Beach. Scott Palmer served as MC and was joined by Larry Andersen, the camp commissioner. Among the awards were the Most Valuable Player, Gold Glove, batting champion, Cy Young, Charlie Hustle, Maje McDonnell, Tug McGraw Inspiration and presentation of the World Series trophy to the Skychiefs, managed by Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski.
Keaton won the McGraw award and delivered an inspirational and emotional speech, “Thank you for giving me a country to fight for. I’m blessed to be an American and have a wife and five kids…….This has been one of the best weeks of my life.” Keaton also won the award for most standing ovations, three.
Two new awards were unveiled. The Mike Lieberthal Iron Man Award was given to the 10 catchers who were behind the plate for their respective teams all week. “Lieby” was on stage to salute each one.
Then, John Kruk went to the podium to present the other new award given in honor of “the best leader I’ve ever seen, no question. He could give you an encouraging word when things weren’t going good and he could also kick you in the ass. It is my pleasure to announce the Darren Daulton Leadership Award.” Out of a side door entered Darren Daulton, who drew another standing-O, as he and Krukker hugged. Ken Romig, who has health issues as does Darren, was the first winner. Yet another standing-O. Palmer posted a video of the presentation on phillies.com. Check it out.
Darren looks great, fit and trim as always.
Sunday was the big finale, each of the 10 teams getting to play a three-inning game against the Phillies Legends at Bright House Field, where the grass is green. Yep, 10 games in one day!
Among the highlights:
**One noticeable difference from their playing days…..the Legends walked off and on the field, rather than jogging. “Got to save energy. It’s a long day,” laughed Eisey.
**Kruk played second base for a couple of games.
**For a couple of other games, the infield was Dave Hollins (3B), Kevin Stocker (ss), Mickey Morandini (2B) and Kruk (1b). Mariano Duncan took turns at third base.
**Outfield at times included Ricky Jordan (LF), Milt Thompson (CF) and Jim Eisenreich (RF), more shades of the 1993 NL champions.
**Daulton was behind the plate but seated in the stands where he chatted with fans and campers signing a lot of autographs.
**When Danny Jackson was on the mound, he threw a pitch into the third base dugout to keep the enemy on its toes.
**Duncan fielded a grounder but his low throw wasn’t scooped by Kruk, who took off his glove and threw it toward the mound. Duncan then threw his glove and so did Jackson. One the very next play, Kruk successfully fielded another low throw from Duncan. Kruk tossed his glove in the air and walked off the field. Good it was the third out.
**Chris Coste caught all 10 games for the Legends.
**Morandini grounded into a double play when a left-handed shortstop fielded a ground ball, touched second and threw to first. Mickey heard from his fellow Legends.
**Other Legends included Von Hayes, Scott Eyre, Marty Bystrom, Warren Brusstar, Dickie Noles, Tommy Greene, Steve Schrenk.
**There were two still photographers in the infield, one in the outfield and one in foul territory on each side of home plate. As best as I could tell, none got wacked by a baseball.
Everyone scattered to catch late afternoon flights home. The campers packed their uniforms, a treasure from living a dream. More importantly, they had a lifetime full of memories, especially the shortstop that turned a DP on Mickey.
This week, the Phillies are having an annual January event in Clearwater, Phantasy Camp. At one time, it was called Dream Week and run by someone other than the ballclub.
People from all walks of life pay to wear a Phillies uniform for a week in Florida, mingling among many of their heroes. I was one of 100 that lived this dream in January of 1990.
Del Ennis, my childhood hero spotted me wearing #. “You’re my number one pick tomorrow. I’m going to teach you how to sit.” Minutes later, Larry Bowa spoke up, “I’m picking you, batting you fourth and if you don’t produce, I’ll bury you.” I wasn’t in shape and wished he hadn’t used that term, bury. Then, we took the field, all eager beavers. First stretching, then batting practice and a seven-inning game in which the managers made notes of our skills. There will be eight teams and we would begin playing “real” games tomorrow. Went to bed that night wondering if Del or Larry would draft me. ESPN didn’t carry the draft so had to wait until Tuesday morning.
When we got to the clubhouse at Carpenter Field I learned I had been drafted in the third round by Richie Hebner, manager of the Clippers. So much for Del’s and Larry’s promises.
I signed up to be a stationary first baseman. During infield practice, Hebner hit each of the infielders a pop up. From a distance, they looked a mile high. Now it was my turn. I camped under that sucker and was sure I was in the right place but it landed four feet behind me. In my game debut: strikeout, RBI single and a run scored.
Every morning $1.00 fines were dolled out. One of my teammates, Ralph Trout (Millville, NJ), was fined for coaching first…..for the other team!
Wednesday and Thursday were doubleheaders. Strike out and fielder’s choice in the first game. In the second game, two walks, one single and two RBI. Nearly got killed on defense. A vicious grounder came my way, thought I was perfectly stationed when it took a bad bounce. The blurry ball whizzed by and nipped my left ear.
Before Thursday’s game, Tony Taylor’s team, the Quakers, was fined. The previous game, all nine starting players made an error….in the first inning! I struck out in my first at-bat, prompting Tony to yell, “You swing the bat like Bobby Wine.” Hitless one other at-bat and then a strikeout and sacrifice fly RBI in the second game.
Friday, fly to center and hit by a pitch (back) in the first game. The second game was the Championship, Clippers vs. Bowa’s unbeaten Beavers. Kurt Francis, a right-hander, made his fifth start for us in three and one-half days. Francis was out of gas and didn’t survive the first inning, allowing nine runs. I had left the bases loaded with a run in and two out in the top of that inning.
Got hit in the back again in my other at-bat. Being a gamer, I didn’t seek treatment. Besides, the trainer’s room was filled way beyond capacity.
The week ended with a game at Jack Russell Stadium on Saturday against the Alumni, top four teams in the morning and bottom four teams in the afternoon. We were introduced as if it was opening day. Jack Russell Stadium’s capacity was 7,000. We fell short of that, way short…about 70 fans.
Rick Wise was pitching against my Clippers. “Now batting, number four, first baseman Larry Shenk from Wilmington, DE.” That introduction lasted longer than my at-bat. Wise blew two fast balls by me. The home plate umpire whispered to me, “I’ll call a ball on the next pitch.” I made the mistake of telling Rick, a fellow rookie in 1964, “throw that crap over the plate” after my borderline second strike. I swung and missed at a pitch I only heard. It was so fast I didn’t see it. Rick is in the record book for being the only pitcher to hit two home runs while pitching a no-hitter. He’s also the only big leaguer to strike me out.
This year, I’ll be there as a spectator. I survived a week without getting hurt, I’m a bit more ancient now and besides, why spoil Rick Wise’s great accomplishment.
Be back with another blog on January 28.