Results tagged ‘ MLB Network ’

12/14/10 – Cliff Lee


I eagerly woke up this morning to watch the MLB Network’s coverage of last night’s absolutely shocking signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies. Instead, I was treated to a replay of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series… the game that solidified Lee’s folk hero status in Philadelphia. Because of the circumstances that revolved around this World Series with my father passing away the morning of the last game (and the fact the Phillies lost the Series), I have refused to watch any of the games again. This time, it was completely different. When I turned on the TV, the game was in the third inning, Phillies up, no score, Chase Utley at bat. Home run. All the excitement and emotion from that night came flooding back. Lee’s complete domination that night, combined with his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor, brought such incredible hope to every fan. We could win our second World Series in a row. Even better, we could do it against the Yankees.

As was the routine, my dad and I called each other as soon as the game finished. Just like he did to every Phillies fan, Lee won over my dad almost instantly. In fact, I don’t think there was ever another Phillie my dad was so thrilled about to don the red and white pinstripes. He LOVED Cliff Lee. On this night, my dad’s voice had as much excitement in it as he had after Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. We could not stop lauding his performance that night.

——————–

A little more than a month after my father’s passing, the Phillies traded away Cliff Lee in a three-team deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia… the original plan for the ’09 trade deadline. This was easily THE most bittersweet deal any Philadelphia sports team had manufactured. I was thrilled to have Halladay, but my baseball heart was absolutely broken over the departure of Lee. I thought about my dad and how deeply disappointed he would have been over this move. I was able to hear every word of his hypothetical tirade. Even with Halladay living up to every dream of Phillies fans, I know my dad would still be watching Cliff Lee’s progress with the Seattle Mariners, and later the Texas Rangers. And I know his performance in the postseason with the Rangers, who went further than the Phillies, would get him cracking open a couple extra cans of Coors Light to ease the pain.

——————-

What happened last night was magical. 

A week ago, the Phillies were the victim of a free agent signing that rocked the GM Winter Meetings. Jayson Werth left an incredible situation in Philadelphia to simply go where the money was… his sole intention. The Washington Nationals’ massive contract to Werth was eye-opening. Werth’s decision to commit to a less-than-stellar baseball club was head-shaking (I had plenty of opinions about this, so I’m not going to bother wasting more time on that subject).

Last night, the Phillies were involved in an even more Earth-shattering transaction… something practically no one saw coming. At the 11th hour, Cliff Lee gracefully declined the two extremely generous offers given to him from the Rangers and Yankees, both considered the favorites and only two teams in the running, and signed with a “mystery team” that spun the rumor mill to dangerous speeds. That team? The Philadelphia Phillies. 

Unlike Werth, he chose a team that he wanted to play for, not who gave him the most lucrative contract. Lee and his family adored Philadelphia during his first stint with the club, and he made it very clear that he was disappointed he was being shipped out. Now he had the chance to return and he took it. Yes, he still got paid very handsomely (5 years/$100 million with a 6th year option. Total: $120 million). However he left upwards of $41 million on the table by not accepting either of the offers from the Rangers or Yankees. This was not completely about the money. This was simply about being happy. Cliff Lee was already a legend to Phillies fans. This decision just upgraded him to “mythical god” status. 

Apart from the obvious thrill that comes from this reacquisition, what is really making this move emotional for me is knowing that somewhere, my dad is jumping up and down in joy. His favorite player has returned to the Phillies. And he returned for all the right reasons. 

Now I can watch Game 1 again… not with sadness, but with eternal hope and a very warm heart.

Welcome back Cliff.

12/2/10 – This Day in Legend History… Mitch Williams


On December 2, 1993, Mitch Williams was traded to the Houston Astros for pitchers Jeff Juden and Doug Jones. The sound of the crack of Joe Carter’s bat did even stop resonating before Williams was shipped out of town… far from Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Mitch, he could not regain his swagger. He appeared in only 52 more games for three different teams before retiring at the age of 32. Like I mentioned before, he has resurfaced to become one of the most insightful and entertaining analysts on the MLB Network.

Coincidentally, yesterday on the show Hot Stove, they ran a segment about the “memorable returns” of players (popular and unpopular) to their former home fields after going to a new team. They preceded to show Williams’ first return to Philadelphia after the trade on May 27, 1994. Funny enough, Williams entered the game and he hit another Legend, Mickey Morandini, square in the back. Oh so fitting.

9/11/10 – Nine Years

Since it’s inception, the MLB Network airs “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” every year at this time. Apart from my memories of that specific day, I feel so grateful that I got to experience the emotions surrounding the return of baseball in New York City and the end to a very memorable season that was featured in the documentary. Watching Mike Piazza of the Mets blast that 8th inning home run in their first game back to New York was storybook perfection. I was able to drop my team-specific allegiance, and just root for the game of baseball. Later, I was lucky enough to attend Game 5 of the World Series at Yankees Stadium.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of either of the local New York nines, but you could have not asked for a better experience at a baseball game… the overwhelming national pride, Ronan Tynan’s 7th inning rendition of “God Bless America”, the incredible Fall weather, and an amazing end to spectacular World Series game, no matter who won.

Today, my wife and I took the 7 train out to Queens to see the Phillies take on the Mets at Citifield. As it was nine years ago, the weather was stunningly perfect. A late afternoon baseball game made it even better. In addition to all the wonderful and emotional tributes given by the Mets organization before and during the game, the one that gave me the biggest of chills was the replay of Piazza’s home run, complete with Gary Cohen’s beautiful call of that shot. I was immediately transported back to that time and, once again, realized why I love this city and why I love baseball.

The Phillies unfortunately lost the game and are now tied with the Atlanta Braves for the NL East Division lead.

I was with the love of my life, experiencing a simple joy together. Nine years later, that’s all that matters.

7/6/10 – Cleared to Participate

Today I received my annual checkup to satisfy the Camp’s health requirements to attend in January. I’m proud to say, unlike a good portion of the Phillies at the present moment, I have been “cleared to participate in baseball activities”. However, unlike the current roster of the Phillies, the great majority of my “baseball activities” include watching the MLB Network on my couch, in air-conditioning, usually with an alcoholic beverage of some sort in my hand (after 5 PM of course… depending on which country I feel like being in at that moment). Although, based just on that, coaching/playing on two slow-pitch softball teams, and my long hair and constant facial scruff, I think that gets me at least a cup of coffee on the ’93 squad.

Werth and I know something about the outfield and hair maintenance.

Along with the signed health history form, I also mailed my check for the remaining balance of the Camp tuition. Six months seems like an eternity right now.

Just like how long it would be for me to turn 30 years old as a little kid.

3/23/10 – The Call

When I called the Phantasy Camp Headquarters, I got their automated menu system. This was not your run-of-the-mill phone directory prompt. The voice on the other end was “The Voice”. I immediately beamed. I thought to myself, “this is the coolest damn thing I have ever heard in my life”. However, it also saddened me. Harry had passed away that last April before a game against the Nationals in Washington. I had seen the breaking news report on the MLB Network and quickly called my dad. I felt like I was informing him a family member had just passed. He clearly was upset by the news. A voice that was synonymous with generations of Phillies fans was silenced. This was also the voice that first told me about the wonders of this camp. The significance of this did not escape me.

I spoke to a wonderful woman named Joanne LeVeque who was the enrollment coordinator. She was excited at my enthusiasm to want to attend the camp. When I told her I lived in New York City, she immediately asked how I was coping with being surrounded by Yankees and Mets fans. It was a fun conversation and once again, I knew I had made the right decision.

She took all my information and emailed me a couple forms, including the application.  As soon as I started to peruse the application, I immediately became aware what this camp was all about. After asking your name, the second question was, “Nickname you would like to be called at Camp”. This was going to be great.

My nickname? Gary Matthews and I may be duking this out.

Other questions included preferred uniform number and position(s) you would like to play. (Note: the numbers I chose were “31″ for Garry Maddox and “47″ for the year my father was born. I later realized it was also Larry Andersen‘s number, the crowned ring leader of Phantasy Camp. How fitting). Before the legal agreements and final signature, the application had two mini-essay questions. First they asked you to tell them a little about yourself. The second, “Phulfill Your Phantasy: What is your ultimate phantasy for this experience?”. All of a sudden, I got pangs of anxiety. I didn’t want to botch this question up. I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, writing his essay to Mrs. Shields justifying his desire for a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. I needed to come up with the best answer I could so they would accept my application. I did NOT want to get a C+ on this one. I pondered what to write in those eight blanks lines. I shook my head to give myself a mental wake-up. I was clearly thinking about this way too much. This was not going to make or break their decision on whether or not they should let me attend. I basically gave them a condensed, eight-line version of the introduction to this diary. That should do it.

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