March 2011

Opening Day Memories

It’s the most/wonderful time/of the year…

Phillies.com recently spoke with former players and asked them about their favorite Opening Day memories. Below are the moments from the Phantasy Camp Legends.


Marty Bystrom (RHP, 1980-84): “Watching Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter hovering above Veterans Stadium.”

Jim Eisenreich (OF, 1993-96): “1993, my first season with the Phillies. We opened the season in Houston and I was not in the lineup but since my teammate who was going to start overslept, I was inserted in right field. I remember making a catch down the right field line-it was actually a foul ball-but heard some fan comments about not being bad for an ‘old guy.’ We won the game which was the most important part of the day.”

Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95): “One of my best memories of opening day happened in 1993 at the Astrodome in Houston. I arrived at the Astrodome early because of the excitement of the season starting and getting ready early for BP. As soon as I got dressed, I went down to the field, which was a hike at the Astrodome. I was by myself out in front of the dugout watching the Astros’ BP when Jim Fregosi stuck his head out from the tunnel and said ‘Tommy, I need to talk to you upstairs!’ First thought in my mind was that I had been sent down or traded but I thought that I had probably one of the best springs of anybody and why would they send me down. All these thoughts were going through my head all the way up the stairs and back to the clubhouse. When I arrived back to the clubhouse I noticed that everyone else had arrived and for some reason everyone was seating in the chairs facing the center of the clubhouse where a chair was placed. Jim then instructed me to sit down in the chair and I looked at everyone and then back at him and said ‘I am not going to sit there in that chair because I don’t trust anyone in this room and that no one was going to put me in that chair.’ I said that because everyone knew April 6th was my birthday. He finally got me to sit down with some encouraging from Lee Thomas and instructed the clubhouse guys to open the main door. A young lady that was dressed as a nurse entered the room, did a dance for me, bent down a whispered in my ear and said, ‘Happy Birthday from your family at home!’ Everyone got the biggest kick out of that and said I had the best family in the world. I think it really loosened us up and jump started the season. Everyone came down to the field laughing. Best part, we started the season real good.”

Greg Luzinski (OF, 1970-80): “Hitting a home run in the 1980 home opener against the Expos at the Vet. Little did we know at the time what was in store for us that October.”

Mickey Morandini (2B, 1990-97; 2000): “Has to be seeing Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter. I know I couldn’t have done that.”

Kevin Stocker (SS, 1993-97): “My most memorable moment wasn’t on opening day but my very first game in the big leagues. We beat the Dodgers in 20 innings at the Vet.”

Legends… but for the wrong reasons?

As anyone who is a frequent visitor to Bleacher Report can attest to, they sure do love their lists. Who doesn’t love a good best-of/worst-of ranking? Movies, music, books, TV shows, and especially baseball players…

These lists are meant more to spur debate and for pure entertainment. (It always amuses me how a publication like NME constantly revises their Best Albums, Best Bands, etc. How do The Smiths improve one year, then degrade the next? Fascinating).
Bleacher Report recently released a list: Philadelphia Phillies Worst Players at Each Position Since 1980. This one definitely piqued my interest as there probably would be many-a-mention of players that took the field for the Phillies during the formative years of my Phandom. There were definitely some no-doubters on there, but to my surprise, there were plenty of Phantasy Camp Legends on this list.
Mike Lieberthal! (my coach!) 
Juan Samuel! (twice for 2B and honorable mention for CF)
Tyler Green! (honorable mention)
Ricky Bottalico! (honorable mention)
Admittedly, the author claims it’s a very biased list and it’s more about the “most despised players”. The problem all of these guys had was that they were on very less-than-stellar teams. It’s much easier to point out the negatives of a player(s) when the team is losing. If these current Phillies teams weren’t making the playoffs or winning a World Series, a bunch of the players could easily have a different light shone on them. 
With seven All-Star appearances among every one of these players listed, I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Spaulding with his choices. I bet a visit to Phantasy Camp would alter his decisions.
But hey, this is exactly the reaction he is looking for, right? What Difference Does It Make?  

Ya Gotta Believe it’s St. Patrick’s Day

“Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.”


It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without paying tribute to a pitcher who not only has the unique distinction of being beloved by BOTH the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets, but who made this day the most important holiday of the year. That of course, would be Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw Jr.

So let’s raise a glass.

Here’s to the Amazin’
Here’s to the Believin’
Here’s to the Smokin’
Here’s to the Screwballin’
Here’s to the Glove Slappin’
Here’s to the Baseball Bunchin’
Here’s to the Phightin’
Here’s to the Jumpin’
Here’s to the Soarin’
Here’s to the Laughin’
Here’s to the Survivin’
Here’s to the Inspirin’

Tug,
Philadelphia, New York, and everywhere in between will always love you.

“Is solas na bhflaitheas tareis antsail seo agat”

———————-

During the Phantasy Camp awards banquet, I was proud to have my teammate, Duke McLaughlin, win the “Tug McGraw Inspiration Award”. Before the award was presented, Legend Warren Brusstar spoke about the award and what it meant to him. During Tug’s illness, Brusstar acted as caregiver, and currently, his wife Jennifer is the CEO of The Tug McGraw Foundation.

For more information about The Tug McGraw Foundation, please visit their website:

“‘Ya Gotta Believe’– The Tug McGraw Foundation was established in 2003 to enhance the quality of life of children and adults with brain tumors and in 2009 expanded programs to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), and Trauma Brain Injury, (TBI). We collaborate and partner with other organizations so that we can accelerate new treatments and cures to improve quality of life in areas of physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual impact of those debilitating conditions.”  

Vote for The Transplanted Phan!

Gerald Ford throws out the first ball at the 1976 All-Star Game.

My brother blog, The Transplanted Phan, has made the The Phield. For two years, The Phield has set up an NCAA basketball-style bracket with Phillies blogs going head-to-head. You, the reader, vote.

I’m hoping to play the role of the Richmond Spiders in 1991, taking the 15 seed, and upset the number 2 seed, Phuture Phillies. So I’m asking all the readers of this blog to write in to The Phield and vote for The Transplanted Phan. Just email thephield@gmail.com and mention The Transplanted Phan as the winner in the First Round in the Salisbury Region. Voting ends at 5 PM on Thursday.

Thanks!

Opening Day Tickets

…have arrived. Apart from the obvious excitement of going to the first game of the 2011 season, afterwards there will be a special Phillies Phantasy Camp alumni event. I’m very eager to see a lot of my fellow Campers from this past January. 

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Thank You… Again!

The MLBlogs Leaders for February 2011 were announced, and incredibly, I moved in to the Top 20, landing at the #19 slot. Last month, I was mistakenly placed at the number one spot, but was quickly revised, still keeping me in the Top 25. 

Thank you to everyone again for continuing to stop by and taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I truly appreciate it!
And congrats to everyone who made the list, including my Phillies brethren!

The MLBPAA 2011 Baseball for Kids Legends Game

A selection of 2011 Phillies Phantasy Camp Legends will be taking part in a charity game this Sunday, March 13th, at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. Click HERE to purchase tickets.

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Mickey Morandini’s Journey Back to the Minors

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Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia
Inquirer has a piece today about Legend Mickey Morandini and his first go round
at coaching at the Minor League level for the Phillies’ short-season
Williamsport affiliate.
 

“‘I’m
very intense when I coach,’ Morandini said. ‘It’s not to the point where I’m
screaming and yelling, but I’m really into the game. You’ll see me pacing a
lot. I have a lot of nervous energy.'”

Anyone who attended Camp can easily attest to this
statement. Mickey may be the only Legend coach to almost be tossed from a game
for arguing with the umpire. 

All the best to Mickey. Welcome back to the
organization!

A Kiwi in the Sun

When I first started this Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary, one of the first comments I received was from a fellow who attended the Camp back in 2007. What immediately struck me was the fact that he was from Australia. I could not believe someone from a country where you are more likely to swing a cricket bat rather than a Louisville Slugger, traveled such a long distance to play baseball in Florida.

Cut to the Rookie Meeting during the first night of Camp. The emcee, Scott Palmer, spotlighted a few campers that were quite noteworthy, including Luis Liceaga, who was attending his 11th straight Camp. One Camper who was given a special mention was a guy named Mike Macdonald, who made a very similar trek as the Aussie Phillie back in ’07. Mike came to Clearwater all the way from Auckland, New Zealand.

———————

On the night of the Awards Banquet, Mike’s incredible experience was about to get more special. He was given the “Maje McDonnell Award” for being the one player at Camp who “has personality and is a class act both on and off the field”. This garnered a huge response from the appreciative crowd.

Unfortunately, since the Drillers never played his team, the Sea Dogs, I never had a chance to meet and chat with Mike while we were down in Clearwater.

But thanks to the power of the Internet, specifically, Facebook, I have finally been able to speak with Mike on a regular basis. Our conversations range from New York City, to cricket, to the two of us being fellow drummers. (Check out Mike’s former band, The Warners). I recently asked Mike if he would be interested in answering a
few questions for the blog and he was more than willing to share every wonderful memory of his Camp experience.

Sarge: When and how did you come about becoming a Phillies/baseball fan?

Mike: I first went to the U.S. in 1986, to be in a summer camp counselor in Raymond, Maine. The locals were, of course, totally obsessed with the Red Sox, and talked all day about the games. Camp was late June through August, and the Sox were going well that year. So I started getting hooked into the game as their enthusiasm rubbed off onto me. But when I came back home, there was no baseball, so I forgot about it. In 1993, I got pay TV, and they had baseball on their sports channel. It
was September that I got the service, and I started watching the games, and we only got two a week, but of course it was a good year for the Phillies, so we got to see them a few times, and then thru the World Series. Looking at the other teams, they were all like super athletes who went out to WIN WIN WIN. The Phillies looked more like a bunch of guys who turned up on the day, didn’t shave, didn’t comb their hair, and just woke up. I thought if I was a baseball player, that was the sort of team I’d want to play on, and they always looked like they were having fun, win or lose. And more than any John Kruk always looked and acted like I think I would, if I was there. I also liked the way Lenny Dykstra played.

S: How do your friends and family react to your devotion to baseball?

M: The people down here don’t get baseball at all, and they are not sure why I like it. Rugby is our biggest game, and the true fans of it don’t talk to me when they know I don’t like their game. But to each their own. Our national game is played in the rain and the cold of winter, and it’s a group of guys rolling around in the mud. I
went to see Phillies versus Mets at Shea on a perfect hot sunny Sunday in the summer. I know which conditions I like to watch a game.

S: What was your motivation to attend Phantasy Camp?

M: Watching baseball on TV is always so much fun, so I thought it must be better to play, but its the chance to play with the pros that made me want to go to Camp. I don’t really have motivation to want to play it every week, and wouldn’t really have the time to do it. There is a little bit of baseball down here, and maybe it’s growing, but you can’t compare it to the experience of the Phantasy Camp. Of course there was going to be great players at the Camp, but I figured there would be a lot of guys like me, so wasn’t worried about my skill level. I was more worried that I don’t know the game and ex-pros like the rest of the Campers.

S: Did you ever play any sort of organized baseball in New Zealand?

M: I played lunchtime softball at school, but had never played baseball until Phantasy Camp. My last hit at softball would have been 1980 I guess.

S: Which Legend did you most want to meet at Camp?

M: I wanted to meet John Kruk, as I saw so much of me in him, and his attitude. I mean, he’s 110% professional, as much as they joked around at Camp, they can’t help but be good at what they were paid to do, and loved doing every day. They will always be ball players. I also wanted to meet the other ’93 Phillies, as they were the first players that I watched play and made me want to be a Phillies fan.

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S: How was it to win the “Maje McDonnell Award”?

M: I was blown away when I won the award. I didn’t know the story behind the man, apart from the stories from L.A. (Larry Andersen) and the video clip of Maje that we saw, but the fact that they picked me as the winner means that I must have left a mark in their minds. I talked a few times to L.A. and Scott Palmer, and they, like so many others, were just blown away by the fact that someone would come halfway round the world to be at the Camp, and that I knew about the Phillies, have been to
games, and wanted to be part of it. And then L.A. asked me to give a little speech… I don’t really remember what I said, but I seemed to say the right things, and my speech was enjoyed by everyone. Some asked me afterwards if I knew I was getting the award, as they thought I had pre-written the speech. But no, I was stunned when L.A. said I had won. I knew I wasn’t going to get an award for my playing, but to be picked out of everyone was incredible.

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S: What were your favorite and most memorable moments at Camp?

M: So many great memories, but I guess getting my first ever base hit in our third game was probably the top, as it showed me that I could play, and it felt so great to run the bases. Pity I never got a run, but was only three steps away from home plate before being thrown out, so I almost made it. Also hitting Ricky Bo’s (Bottalico)
pitch in the Legends game was great. I got thrown out at first, but to be put out by John Kruk was not a bad thing. And L.A. had heard that I wanted to meet Kruk, but was never near John to say “hi”, so at the end of the second day of camp, L.A. took me to the pro’s locker room, where I spent about 10 minutes talking one-on-one to Kruk and Dave Hollins. John and Bull (Greg Luzinski) signed a ball for me, and spoke to Kruk a couple more times after that. He didn’t know what to say when I said that I was a Phillies fan and at the Camp mainly because of him. Dave Hollins suggested that maybe I was insane. The interaction of the pros was great to see. Just like when Ricky Bo was telling me how to run home form third as soon as the ball was hit in our game when I was on base. The opposing Legends said he was full of sh!t, and what the hell does a pitcher know about running… great stuff.

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S: Will you return to Camp some day?

M: I would love to go back to Camp. For me, just like going to the August reunion, it’s simply a cost factor that’s stopping me. My Camp experience was well in excess of twice the costs of everyone else, with the extra flights to get to America and over to Florida, as well as our exchange rate of around 75 cents to your dollar, and going to Camp means it will be a few more years until I can afford to go back and watch the Phillies play at home.

S: Finally, how will the Phillies do this year?

M: Some good wins at Spring Training, but I am reading a few stories about Chase Utley, and some others with broken bones (Domonic Brown)… so who knows. Its a long season (I don’t know how they do it every year), but we all want to see another win, so I’ll pick good things for 2011… as I’m sure we all are.

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