Before I get into my coverage of our final two games, you may recall me mentioning in my last entry that I thought Ed Smith Stadium looks like a motel. Well, I dug through my old photo albums, and found a photo from our visit in March 2000. At the time, it was the spring home of the Reds. Since then, the Reds have relocated to Arizona for Spring Training, and Ed Smith is now home to the Orioles. Here it is:
Unless it’s been refurbished in the past 10 years, this is what the exterior of the part behind home plate looks like. All those railings and doors look just like a motel to me.
March 16 – Day 6
After yet another mouth-watering breakfast at the Inn at the Bay, we made our way to Bright House Field for today’s Phillies-Tigers game. If I haven’t already mentioned it, the Inn at the Bay serves the most awesome breakfasts. We’ve stayed there five times, and we’ve almost never had the same breakfast twice. They are so filling, most days we don’t even need lunch!
Once again, we arrived when the gates opened. New Tiger Johnny Damon signed some autographs (for Phillies fans!) during batting practice. I’m still not too happy with Johnny over that stolen-base-thing last October:
Cole Hamels was on the mound for the Phillies, going five innings with 2 hits, 1 run, and 4 stikeouts. He was looking pretty good this day:
Detroit’s Justin Verlander didn’t have such a great day, giving up home runs to Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard. Overall, he went 3 1/3 innings, with 4 runs on 3 hits:
Speaking of Howard’s homer (his first of the spring), it came on the swing immediately following this shot:
During a pitching change, Johnny Damon, Adam Everett, and Brandon Inge discuss the fly ball that got lost in the sun and just dropped into the Bermuda Triangle of turf between all three of them for a hit. They all appear to have sunglasses – guys, weren’t you using them?
Phil Coke came on in relief of Verlander, and proceeded to give up Domonic Brown’s second homer of the day, a two-run shot. Phil’s pants look like they have enough extra fabric at the bottom for a whole ‘nuther pair:
Domonic Brown had a great day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two homers and an RBI single. As thanks, he got reassigned to the minor league camp after the game:
New Phillie Danys Baez came on to pitch a scoreless inning in relief:
Greg Dobbs, playing third in place of the injured Placido Polanco, makes contact. Dobbs went 1-for-3 and scored a run:
Jimmy Rollins stops to sign some autographs on his way to the clubhouse. This may have been a mistake, as he was stuck there for the next 10 minutes while fans continued to flock down the aisle. Jimmy is actually one of the most fan-friendly Phillies, so he didn’t seem to mind:
Something I hadn’t seen before was a post-game batting practice. After the final out, the cage was wheeled back on the field, and Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Shane Victorino took additional BP. Shane seemed to be working on his bunting. Afterwards, Raul Ibanez and his son walk to the clubhouse with Charlie Manuel:
On the way out, we stopped for a photo of me in front of the entrance to the ballpark. Since I’m always the one taking the pictures, we need visual proof I was actually on this vacation:
March 17 – Day 7
St. Patrick’s Day dawned rather gray and dreary. On our way to the ballpark, it even rained a little bit. This had me concerned, because our “seats” for today were on the berm, the grassy area beyond the outfield fence. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting on soggy sod.
Not to fear though. By gametime, the skies had cleared and it turned into a sunny, pleasant afternoon for our final day in Florida.
During Phillies BP, Charlie Manuel had a chance to check out the mini-sized Charlie Manuel bat that will be given out to kids on July 6:
Randy Winn and Brian Schneider are loitering behind the batting cage. Something has made Winn grin, though Schneider looks like he just ate a bug:
This trio of trouble is yukking it up at the expense of their fellow fielder, who just muffed a grounder during pre-game warmups:
Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez wait their turns in the batting cage. Just what is that huge wad hiding in A-Rod’s cheek? Gum? Sunflower seeds? Some chew? His ego?
Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler was on hand to sign copies of his book, “View From The Booth.” Yes, I bought one. There are some who don’t really like Wheels as a broadcaster, but I’ll be interested to read his take on things:
Just before the game started, I met up with Confession of a She-Fan‘s Jane Heller and got interviewed by her on the She-Fan Cam. Click here to read Jane’s coverage of the game, and see the video clip.
In between BP and game time, the Phillies changed from their usual red and white uniforms to their bright green St. Patty’s day jerseys. Joe Blanton took to the mound for the Phillies. Blanton had a Blanton-like outing, going 5 innings, scattering 7 hits and giving up 2 runs:
The last time my husband and I came to Spring Training, in 2007, we saw the Phillies host the Yankees on St. Patrick’s Day, and Andy Pettitte started for the Yankees. Three years later, we are seeing the Phillies host the Yankees on St. Patrick’s Day, and Andy Pettitte is starting for the Yankees. Deja vu!
Randy Winn scores for the Yankees, as the throw to Carlos Ruiz is late:
Ryan Howard tosses the ball to first to get the out:
The Flyin’ Hawaiian can’t fly quite far enough, as this ball got past Shane Victorino for an extra-base hit:
The Phillie O’Phanatic get a bit, um, friendly with the third-base umpire. The mind shudders to imagine the offspring that would result from such an unholy union:
The luck of the Irish was with Jayson Werth as he lauched a three-run homer, which sealed the outcome of the game in favor of the Phillies:
Final score: Phillies 6, Yankees 2
Later that evening, we met up for dinner with Jane and her husband Michael, as it turned out that they were staying just three blocks away from us in St. Petersburg. We all enjoyed a delicious meal, and great conversation. The time flew by, and since we all had flights home the next day, finally had to bid each other good night.
Our flight home was much better than the first – no turbulence, and my husband and I actually got to sit next to each other this time.
(all photos by me, except the one of me, which was taken by my husband)
As various media outlets in the Philadelphia region have noted recently, manager Charlie Manuel has slimmed down considerably since he began a diet and exercise program during the 2009 season. This photo from thefightins.com shows the dramatic change in Charlie’s appearance:
Charlie says that his weight loss is due to NutriSystem, but after seeing this photo on the Phillies’ website recently, I think I know what really happened:
Charlie transferred his weight to bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer.
I’m sure the weights listed in the Phillies yearbooks should be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe not, doesn’t salt make one retain water?). Anyway, while Charlie’s weight was gradually shrinking, Mick’s seems to have been growing, from 225 to 275 pounds.
Mick, ask Charlie about the NutriSystem!
They say that “hitting is timing”.
According to Warren Spahn, “pitching is upsetting timing”.
Thanks to Cole and Heidi Hamels, we now can surmise that “timing of wife going into labor is upsetting pitching”. Cole was not sharp in yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, giving up four runs in five innings.
Ah yes, timing. Cole Hamels, who seems to already have his whole career planned out, was certainly not thinking ahead when he and Heidi decided to engage in some baby-making, presumable back in January. Would it have been that hard to realize that January plus nine months equals new baby smack in the middle of playoffs? Maybe he was assuming the Phillies wouldn’t make it to the postseason?
(alright, yes that last paragraph was typed with tongue planted in cheek, but still…)
As for Baby Hamels, I haven’t been able to find any confirmation this morning that the baby actually arrived. Nonetheless, congrats to the new parents.
Which leads me to wonder why Charlie even decided to have Cole start this game, if labor was that imminent. Sure, we can say that professional athletes should be able to set their personal lives aside while on the field, but who knows how much that might have affected his concentration?
And then there’s Cole’s abysmal record in day games this season: 0-6 with a 5.44 ERA. What’s up with that? His performance in night games is markedly better, at 10-5 with a 3.95 ERA. No wonder he was whining to the press earlier this week about the ridiculous start times of Games 1 and 2.
So why not start Happ or Blanton? Okay, Happ had pitched two innings in the final regular season game on October 4th, but Blanton had last pitched on October 2nd. As it turned out, both Happ and Blanton were used out of the bullpen, so now the Phils have burned through three starters in one game.
That would seem to leave Pedro Martinez as the Game 3 starter, though Charlie has not yet made his decision, saying Blanton is still in the mix, according to phillies.com. Happ says he would be ready too, even though he took a liner off the leg yesterday from the first batter he faced.
Now the series moves to Denver, where the forecast for Game 3 includes temperatures in the 30’s and snow showers (!). That’s football weather, not baseball. At least I’ll be watching from the cozy comfort of my home.
Ya know, I fully intended to write this post well before now. Didn’t happen. Better late than never, though!
Last Wednesday, I attended the Phillies’ Baseball 101 for Women event, held at Citizen’s Bank Park. This was the fourth year the Phillies have held this event. The first year, 2006, only had a May session, but each year since then has had a May and an August session. Needless to say, every one has been a sellout! I’ve attended one each year, so this was my fourth visit to Phillies Heaven.
I made sure I left my house extra-early, just in case of traffic problems. As my family and friends know, I am not a morning person, so anything that gets me out of bed wide awake at 6:30 in the morning is a minor miracle!
Once we were there and checked in, there was time for a light breakfast. Bagels, muffins, and the like were available, as well as juice, tea and the all-important coffee. Gotta have my coffee! There was also time for a photo op with the World Series trophy before the day’s activities began.
Unlike the last time I was near the trophy, my kids were not present. No need to worry that my offspring might accidentally knock it over while fighting with each other.
About 150 women were in attendance, and for the morning’s sessions, we were divided into four “teams”. While waiting to get our team photo taken, we got a quick visit to the Phillies’ clubhouse.
Upon entering the clubhouse, we were greeted by this guy, whose job at the moment involved sorting the socks. Though you can’t see it in this photo, we were prevented from getting too close to the table by a red rope; otherwise, who knows, a few garments may have vanished as souvenirs :-).
Though we couldn’t get up close to the lockers in the back half of the clubhouse, we did get a good look into the lockers of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino, among others. Actually, maybe a bit too much is on display in Chase’s locker.
Here is Ryan’s locker. Not too messy – he actually has a second one next to it. Apparently the big-name guys (Utley, Howard, Rollins) are afforded this little perk.
Shane Victorino’s locker is actually quite neat and tidy.
Even the clubhouse guys get World Series rings! Alas, he didn’t let any of us try it on.
Once we were done in the clubhouse, we made our way to the seating area behind home plate for a session with the guys who run Phanavision, the large video board in left field. Of course, all the video clips, in-game entertainment, music, etc. are computerized, with a small army of people working to make sure everything runs smoothly.
This same group is also responsible for producing many of the video spots promoting upcoming games and events. We got to see some outakes of Shane Victorino recording a spot for Jewish Heritage Night. It took Shane more than a few tries, and lots of laughing, to finally get the pronunciation of “chutzpah” right.
The four teams then split up for coaching clinics with the Phillies’ coaches. Rich Dubee talked about pitching, and we all got a chance to throw a few pitches in the bullpen. Milt Thompson and Pete Mackanin instructed us in proper hitting technique, and we had a chance to bat (off a tee) in the indoor batting cages. Davey Lopes discussed baserunning, and Sam Perlozzo talked to us about fielding. [no pictures of all this, it wasn’t feasible to carry my camera during this portion of the day]
After a break for lunch, we had a Q and A session with J.A. Happ.
He explained that even though his printed name is two initials, proper pronunciation is “Jay” (J.A. stands for James Anthony, in case you were wondering).
Happ answered all kinds of questions for us, though he was a bit reticent about divulging any inside secrets. He admitted to having pregame rituals, though he wouldn’t say what they were. At one point, someone asked about his time with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. At this, host Scott Palmer produced a J.A. Happ bobblehead that was given away at an IronPigs game. Here’s J.A. coming face to face with his bobble likeness.
After J.A. left to a standing ovation, it was time to head to the Media Room for our session with Charlie Manuel.
Though Charlie has a reputation for not being a very eloquent speaker, he seemed pretty comfortable and at ease answering our questions, though when asked which was more intimidating, facing a roomful of reporters or a roomful of us, without hesitation he replied, “A roomful of women!”
Other topics included keeping the team focused on this year’s pennant race and not resting on last year’s laurels, the use of instant replay on disputed home run calls, and Brad Lidge’s problems this year.
Next came a session with umpire Laz Diaz.
Though it may look like Laz is signaling for a touchdown, he is in fact doing his impersonation of Shane Victorino’s arm-flapping in centerfield prior to being ejected from a recent game. As expected, there were many questions asked about why Shane was ejected, and why the home plate umpire would even be paying that much attention to a fielder (answer: the centerfielder is in direct view of the home plate ump, and all that arm waving is showing up the ump, therefore grounds for ejection). He was also asked what, if anything, catchers and batters talk about, and if there are any sure-fire ways to get ejected from a game.
Finally, the radio broadcasting duo of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen talked about their experiences covering the Phillies. Here, Scott is apparently having a hard time believing something that Larry has just said.
Though not everyone agrees with me, I have always enjoyed L.A. as a broadcaster. Franzke is slowly growing on me, and these two have a great rapport. Their personalities complement each other very well, and in person you can really see how they play off each other.
Then it was on to our pregame patio party, with complementary food and beverages, and of course a visit from the Phanatic.
Then it was game time! As an added bonus, it was also Brad Lidge bobblehead night. I was just praying that Brad didn’t have to come into the game and possibly blow a save – who knows how many bobbleheads may have been thrown on the field if that had happened!
Cliff Lee was facing Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. Lee had a great game; Haren on the other hand did not, giving up 6 earned runs in 5 innings of work. The Phillies bats were alive, with home runs from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and two from Jayson Werth. The Phillies won, 8-1!
All in all, a great day! I’ll be looking forward to next year’s event so I can do it all over again!
(all photos by me, except obviously the ones with me in them; those were taken by a fellow attendee and one of the ballgirls, using my camera)
If not for Ben Francisco’s leadoff homer in the top of the 12th, I would have been doing this today
as I sat writing about Brad Lidge’s seventh blown save of the season.
The Nose Knows
Things had looked bleak back in the sixth, with the Phils down 2-0. I was already envisioning doing the head-banging thing, as Rich Harden had been perfect through 5 1/3. But then Carlos Ruiz walked with one out. J.A. Happ then made a pathetic attempt at a sacrifice bunt, popping out to Derrek Lee and failing to advance Ruiz. So with two outs, Jimmy Rollins comes to the plate, and my husband announced he could “smell” a two-run homer.
Sure enough, Jimmy came through to tie the game!
The Phils went up 3-2 in the eighth, when Ryan Howard walked with the bases loaded. Thank you Ryan, for not striking out!
But darn it, Brad Lidge came on in the bottom of the ninth. Unlike last year, he has been anything but “lights out” this year. As mentioned earlier, he allowed the Cubs to tie the score, for his seventh blown save. Ready…to…tear…hair…out! Guess it’s a good thing Charlie doesn’t have too much of his own hair left, because if he felt like I did, he’d have been yanking it out by the handful.
Fast forward to the top of the 12th, and Francisco’s homer puts the Phils ahead. Heading into the bottom of the 12th, I commented that thankfully Lidge couldn’t come in again to blow another save. Chad Durbin entered the game and did what Lidge could not, preserve a one-run lead to get the save.
Give Me An ‘O’!
Today’s Inquirer had a good write-up about prospect Domonic Brown, who was recently promoted to AA-Reading. According to the story, Brown remains a shy prospect despite the recent attention cast on him by various trade-deadline rumors, and only recently informed the Phillies that they have been spelling his name wrong ever since he was drafted.
So I looked in the 2009 Media Guide, and sure enough it was spelled “Dominic”. I also noted that he had been drafted in 2006! A mere three years ago. Better late than never, I guess.
This Sunday we’ll be heading to Reading for the game, so I hope to get a good look at (and some good photos of) Brown in action.
The Phillies dropped their second exhibition game yesterday, losing to the Blue Jays 6-2. The good news from the game was that Carlos Carrasco and J.A. Happ each pitched two scoreless innings. Carrasco struck out three, without giving up any hits, and Happ struck out one while giving up one hit. So it looks like the competition for the fifth starters’ spot is already off to a blazing start.
What is not off to a blazing start is the Phils’ batting. Rather, the bats still seem to be hibernating. According to Charlie Manuel, “Our hitting is behind. But we haven’t seen a lot of live hitting yet. Our players didn’t get here until the 17th.”
Um, Charlie, wouldn’t the other teams be in the same boat too? The Pirates’ and Blue Jays’ bats apparently aren’t so far behind.
OK, I know these games don’t matter, etc. etc., and the runs have been given up not by the starting rotation guys, but by the non-roster invitees. But the Phils weren’t facing the other teams’ aces either, so let’s wake up those bats, please!
Breaking news! The Phillies have released Adam Eaton. Looks like the team will end up eating $9 million on Eaton: $8.5 million for this season, plus a $500,000 club option for 2010. I’d still love to know why the front office thought that signing a pitcher whose ERA has never been below 4.00 was a good idea. For three years, no less! I will be interested to see if he ends up getting picked up by another team.
Book Review time
Earlier this week, I finished reading Jane Heller’s book Confessions of a She-Fan. Keep in mind that I was only familiar with Jane from her MLBlog of the same name, and then only since the beginning of February when I started this blog.
I was initially taken aback (slightly) by the true depth of Jane’s vitriol towards the Red Sox and their Nation. Of course, Jane can’t use some of the words directed at said players and fans here on the blogs without getting in trouble!
Being neither a Yankees nor a Red Sox fan, I was able to enjoy the book without reliving the heartbreak of the 2007 season (for Yankees fans), or being offended (for Red Sox fans). In fact, quite a few times while reading I was laughing out loud, to the point that my husband or children were asking me what was so funny. I don’t want to give anything away here to any of you who haven’t read the book yet, so I won’t go into specifics, but suffice it to say that she-fans of any team will enjoy it!
The book is more than just a recap of the Yankees’ 2007 season, and Jane’s experiences following the team across the country for the second half of that season. She deftly interweaves stories of her early years of Yankee love, and her personal life as well, into the week by week travelogues.
Also woven into the mix are the various attempts by Jane to gain access to the pressbox and the team, and how she seems to be thwarted at every turn by one Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ media relations director. All she wants is to talk to just one Yankee! By the end of the book, any Yankee will do.
Though the book is subtitled “The Course of True Love With the New York Yankees”, it also touches on the course of true love with her real-life husband, Michael, who has accompanied Jane on this adventure. We see the ups and downs of her relationships with both Michael and the Yankees. As the old quote goes, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
My favorite parts of the story are like bookends – one at the beginning (in the prologue), when Jane sights A-Rod in a Toronto restaurant, and one near the end, when Jane ventures into enemy territory at Fenway Park. After having been told to be on her best behavior and not draw attention to herself as a Yankee fan, what Jane finally does at the end of the game is worthy of a You-Tube moment!
Jane, I have found a comfortable home for your book here on my bookshelf, nestled in between Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth:
in order to avoid any karmic rage that could come down upon me! 🙂
(Carrasco/Happ photos by Miles Kennedy/Phillies)