Home Sweet Home

Siren Song … Follow the River … Michael Dulin.

Loved being on Clearwater Beach for a month (plus), but good to be back on Point Pleasant Beach, with an interlude featuring Johnny Beach & Dr. Cheeko @ Martell’s on a gorgeous sunny spring afternoon … and to the Lake House again.

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A Sensational Stassi Story

Hard to believe that it was eleven years ago that Chris Coste, a 33 year-old journeyman ballplayer who had never played in the majors, had a blistering spring but didn’t make the Phillies out of Clearwater.  Brock Stassi, a 27 year-old, was at risk for the same fate as a non-roster invitee to spring training this year.  Not drafted until the 33rd round in 2011, Stassi got off to a rough start in low A ball.  He seemed to blossom in advanced A in Clearwater, then struggled the following year (2014) in AA at Reading.  A repeat year in Reading served him well, and in 2015 he shined enough to be promoted to AAA where he did reasonably well.  But nothing compared to the blistering Coste-like spring he enjoyed this month.

So there he was, up on the stadium board this afternoon with a .339 batting average punctuated by 6 HR and 17 RBI while the Phillies were being throttled by the Yankees 14-1.  But still now word as to whether Stassi had made the team as a bench player, despite the fact that they desperately needed his left-handed power bat and could benefit from his versatility in playing left field reasonable well to complement his natural slick fielding at first base.

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And this evening, word came that Stassi had officially made the club.  Seeing his reaction can make grown men misty-eyed.

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The Bold Pelican & Skittish Heron

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Carpenter Complex

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One of Spring Training’s great secrets in Clearwater is the opportunity to see minor league games on the back fields of Carpenter Complex located adjacent to the major league field.

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You can park your car and stroll right into the cloverleaf of four fields, named after each of the four Phillies Hall of Famers of the modern era, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Steve Carlton, and Mike Schmidt, where you’ll find at least one or two minor league teams playing a game.  When you’ve heard that non 40 man roster players have been assigned to the minor league complex as cuts are made during spring training, this is what they mean.  If you keep you ears open you might bump into Sal Agostinelli, International Scouting Directory for the Phils.

Given the proximity of Dunedin to Clearwater, you’ll often find the Phillies minor leaguers competing against players for the Blue Jays’ system.  Names now recognizable to Phillies fans such as catcher Jorge Alfaro or outfielder Dylan Cozens, and to Blue Jays fans such as first baseman Rowdy Tellez, are readily accessible.  It’s like being at a high school game with a handful of fans in the stands – more intimate than any other setting because they’re not playing in a stadium that seats thousands.  A nice chance to see some of these prospects up close and personal in an intimate setting, particularly on a day or time when the big club isn’t playing.  You might even see an old familiar face, like former Phils’ third baseman Charlie Hayes, now a coach for the rookie club of the Gulf Coast League Phillies, who still favors uniform #13, and a touching sight such as Dallas Green’s empty parking spot.

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Pearly’s is Unique to a Beach Town

(Note the surf board table.  Nice place to have a refreshing beverage …)

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Bonsoir Mes Amies

Post-game gulf rays

Gateway to nature’s beauty

Appearing first as cumulonimbus clouds

Chasing beach-goers to cover as they hover in the wind.

They’ll dissipate if you give them a chance

Bathing onlookers in a radiance as splendid as the naked eye can imagine

Leaving the sky to caress the sun

As it sets magisterially into a glass of pinot noir.

Bonsoir, mes amies …

 

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Dallas Day at the Ballpark

After writing about Dallas Green yesterday, I wondered what kind of tribute the Phillies would have at the ballpark today to honor his legacy.  I arrived at Spectrum Field a little bit early just to see if there was any special vibe.  I was surprised a bit that there were no tribute shirts when in fact the Ted Williams Charity Auction nostalgia buff trap had a signed Green jersey on display just a few days ago.  I expressed my surprise to the auctioneer, who told me that they had Green memorabilia out, but someone came by from the front office and asked them to put the items away.  Draw your own conclusions …

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Dallas wore #46 when he pitched for the Phillies, the same number he wore when he managed them to the World Series in 1980.  Ironically Green was a pedestrian pitcher for the Phillies team that infamously blew the pennant in 1964, and his#46 was worn the next year by a rookie who was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a deal for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl.  Although Green is given much credit for stealing Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa from the Phillies for Ivan DeJesus, there was precedence in giving away a future Hall of Famer to the Cubs.  The kid who wore#46 was Ferguson Jenkins.

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I thought alot about Dallas as I walked around the park before the game.  How much effort he reportedly put into the cloverleaf design of the Carpenter Complex where the future bloodlines of the club trained.

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Dallas had such a good eye for talent that he even participated at the Phillies Fantasy Camp in helping assign players to various teams.  I recall how nervous I was, taking some hacks at the plate, knowing that Dallas was watching me and likely cringing.   Walking a bit further toward Frenchy’s Tiki Bar I paused to peer over at Aaron Nola warming up.  Dallas must have looked at young talent and waxed nostalgic about what might have been.  The game churns up young arms with bright futures and deposits them on shore to fend for themselves.

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And then I noticed that two flags were flying at half mast, the Phillies team flag and the MLB flag.  Apparently there would be a tribute to Dallas after all, even though none of the ushers seemed to be aware of what was happening.

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Dandy Dan McDonough looked at his watch and summoned all the Phillies players out of the dugout, joined by the Twins’ players along their dugout’s baseline.

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Chris Wheeler, the ex-broadcaster demoted to player introductions, read a tribute to Green as several images flashed across the scoreboard.

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And then a truly touching moment, as Dennis Gwindale played the Star Spangled Banner on his trumpet, rendering the same feel as the playing of taps at a military funeral.

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No doubt the tributes will continue to pour in from all over the baseball world.  Not only because this game penetrates to the roots of America’s heartlands, but because Dallas Green was able to instill valuable life’s lessons into the minds of all men.  And there will be surprises, such as the episode that Marcus Hayes wrote about this afternoon during which Dallas turned Ryan Howard’s head around.   But that was in 2005, when Dallas still commanded the attention of ballplayers – and Hayes credits him for motivating Howard not to insist on a trade when the Phillies felt he wasn’t ready to displace Jim Thome.  It’s a shame that Green wasn’t able to wield the same influence on a post 2011 Howard whose effort at times seemed lackluster (is it any wonder that no club has been interested in signing him after the Phillies checkbook finally ran out, or that the souvenir shop can’t give away his leftover merchandise for five bucks?).

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Green’s attachment to the game began to fade in 2011.  As Mike Lupica poignantly wrote yesterday, it was the terrible tragedy involving his granddaughter that melted the tough exterior for good.  That raw exposure mellowed him and changed his perspective, but it also took a terrible toll.

Dallas Farewell

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