We first met Phillies catching prospect in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, the crown jewel of the Hunter Pence trade, when he wore #13 which proved to be an unlucky number. I blogged on the professional side regarding his serial concussions from 2013 through 2015, and he was set back so far that the Phillies dropped him from their 40 man roster last year. But Tommy is originally from Phoenix, Arizona – and has arisen as a Phoenix from the ashes.
I avoided going to Phillies games during the regular season over the past few years, much preferring the intimacy of watching prospects in the Arizona Fall League, and then the relative intimacy of Spring Training. The Phillies started off this season as the surprise of major league baseball. And then just as magically the surprise was over. The baseball gods had a good laugh last night, as Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera lost track of how many outs there were and tossed a ball he caught into the stands with only two outs. This isn’t as rare as you think, but it’s often done by players who have trouble maintaining focus, witness Milton Bradley of the Cubs two years ago. As the announcer opines at the end of the clip: “Boy when it goes bad, it goes bad.”
Just about everything went bad for the Phils last night, as they’ve nosedived from being 7 games above .500 to 7 games below in the span of a couple of weeks. In addition to Herrera’s brain cramp, they were charged with four errors. Their supposed ace, Aaron Nola, got rocked by the Blue Jays, failing to make it through the 4th inning in consecutive starts. Granted it was against two good teams, the Nats and the Jays, which the Phillies clearly aren’t.
We picked a perfect weather night to attend a game, and not even the score could dampen our enthusiasm. I had convinced my old resident, Mike Gallaway, to meet Miriam and me for a game once Tommy was called up in his new role as a converted first baseman. I can only imagine the pressure he’s had on him to produce, with Ryan Howard seemingly having an unending reservation to play the position. Tommy came though his first time up with a booming double to center field, though he was doubled up at second base when Cameron Rupp lined out behind him. He reached base another time on a hard grounder between third and short that was ruled an error.
But anything was a bonus after the stimulating chat we had with Tommy prior to the game. It was a real treat to get to know this young man a bit better, and to hear how appreciative he is of what Mike and his vision therapy did for him. We wish him well, and if he continues to succeed it will be one of the best comebacks in major league history.