Ryan Howard has been working extremely hard to recover from his Achilles injury. Howard, Phillies first baseman, will make a big difference when he returns to the starting lineup. In the mean time, Howard is making his presence felt in the community.
In fact, there was a grand slam last week when the Fairmount Park Conservancy, in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Ryan Howard Family Foundation and Citizens Bank Foundation, dedicated a new baseball field in Hunting Park.
The field’s $717,000 restoration is a part of the Hunting Park Revitalization Project, a long-term comprehensive plan led by the Fairmount Park Conservancy, to turn the 87-acre park into a safe and well-maintained space that provides great recreation for families and children. The project also brings the community together.
The Hunting Park baseball field is located near 10th and Cayuga Streets across from Little Flower High School. The field is nothing short of sensational. Everything is brand new. It is truly a field of dreams for many kids in Hunting Park. The Ryan Howard Family Foundation has provided a total of $150,000 toward the project. The foundation has really embraced this neighborhood.
The foundation provided the first donation to the project in 2009. In addition to this financial contribution, the foundation has given over 200 holiday meals and winter coats and gloves to the Hunting Park neighbors. The foundation has provided new uniforms and baseball equipment to the Hunting Park Indians Baseball League.
Last Friday, Howard was on hand for the dedication of the new field along with a number of public officials such as Mayor Michael Nutter, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, state Representative Tony Payton, Deputy Mayor Michael DiBernardinis, executive director of Fairmount Park Conservancy Kathryn Ott Lovell and Citizens Bank President and CEO Daniel K. Fitzpatrick. The Phillies slugger grew up in St. Louis, Mo., where he learned how to play baseball. He was really impressed with the field.
“All you have to do is take a look at the field,” Howard said. “It’s an absolutely beautiful field. It brings back a lot of memories. It’s a big field. You got to hit it to get it out of here.
“It feels good to be able to give back to the community. The kids deserve it. It’s all about the kids. We’ve teamed up with the Fairmount Park Conservancy here at Hunting Park trying to make the dream become a reality, working with the baseball field and the whole park in general. It’s a very exciting time for Hunting Park.”
Howard is one of the most community minded professional athletes in this city. His foundation really cares about the kids in this town. In December, Howard’s foundation donated Adidas athletic wear valued at $1.2 million to the School District of Philadelphia. The award allowed 57 high schools to select athletic shoes and apparel that matched the school’s colors. Four middle schools also received shoes.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to most people. Howard’s community efforts with Hunting Park, Philadelphia Public Schools and other groups haven’t gone unnoticed. A year ago, he was a nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which honors a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. In 2011, Howard was named The Philadelphia Tribune’s Sports Person of the Year. Howard, who happens to be one of the best players in baseball, has been made a big difference in the community.
With his latest effort, he should be a candidate again for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Getting Chase Utley back really gave the Phillies a shot in the arm despite losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-7, on Wednesday night. Utley immediately smacked a home run in his first trip to the plate. He also went 3-for-5 in his first game back after starting the season on the disabled list with bilateral chondromalacia in his left knee.
The Phillies really need their second baseman as the team moves closer to the All-Star break. But the Phillies are anxiously awaiting the return of first baseman and slugger Ryan Howard, who has been nursing his left Achilles injury. Howard has started a rehab assignment with Class A Lakewood. He is expected to come back after the All-Star break.
Howard could have a significant impact in regard to the type of pitches the other players like Hunter Pence, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz will receive with his presence in the lineup. Even though Howard will be coming off a major injury, he’s still a threat to most pitchers in the National League.
If he can swing the bat and provide some power, drive in some runs and hit the ball consistently, that should give the Phillies a big lift just as Utley did in his first appearance. He’s not going to be the player who garnered MVP honors or who carried the Phillies with his home run power to the 2008 World Series right now. It’s going to take some time to get his timing back, particularly in the field.
The big thing with Howard as well as Utley is not their fielding. It’s their hitting. The Phillies need to score runs. They’ve had a number of games where runners have been stranded on base.
The Phillies are trying to get back into the playoff race. They’re currently in fourth place in the National League East. The Phillies are nine games out of first place behind the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets respectively. They’re seven and a half games out in the Wild Card standings. In order for the Phillies to land a Wild Card berth, they would have to leap frog over seven teams. The San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers lead in the Wild Card standings. Two Wild Card teams will make the playoffs this year. The Phillies hope to be one of them.
The Phillies have 74 games left after the All-Star break. It’s going to be interesting to see how big a contribution Utley and Howard can make in the second half of the season. Every series is going to be crucial. The Phillies will have to win most of them or even sweep some of them to move into contention. Everybody will be watching to see if two of the Phillies best players can give them something on a regular basis as the most important part of season take shape.
ST. LOUIS — David Freese homered, doubled and drove in four runs as the St. Louis Cardinals tagged playoff nemesis Roy Oswalt and beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 Wednesday night, forcing a deciding fifth game in their NL division series.
Center fielder Jon Jay made a sliding catch on Placido Polanco's soft fly for the final out, and was already pointing his index finger before he got to his feet.
Now it's back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Friday night. Roy Halladay, who won the opener for the Phillies, will face St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has already called it a dream matchup.
The 102-win Phillies are favored to win it all. But first they must dispose of the wild-card Cardinals, who clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the season and have gotten the best of two members of the Phils' star-studded rotation.
And suddenly, this first-round series has gotten squirrelly for the Phillies. An omen, maybe: Right after Oswalt threw a pitch in the fifth, a squirrel darted across the plate.
Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats in what could have been his final home game with the Cardinals. He received thunderous cheers every trip to the plate from a standing room crowd of 47,071, second-largest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium.
Pujols made his presence known on defense, catching Chase Utley going for an extra base in the sixth. Utley drew a leadoff walk and kept running on Hunter Pence's grounder to short, but Pujols alertly jumped off first base to catch the throw and made a sharp relay to third for the out.
Edwin Jackson recovered from a rocky beginning to win his first playoff start. After giving up two runs on his first five pitches, he wound up throwing six solid innings. Jason Motte worked a perfect ninth for his second save of the series.
Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for 8 the last two games with five strikeouts and has hit only one ball out of the infield.
Oswalt had been 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 previous postseason starts, the biggest closing out old Busch Stadium and the Cardinals in 2005 to get Houston to its first World Series. The right-hander also worked seven shutout innings against St. Louis in the Phillies' NL East division clincher in mid-September.
The biggest jolts for the Cardinals came from their seventh-place hitter. Freese was 2 for 12 the first three games with one RBI before punishing the fourth of the Phillies' aces.
Freese's two-run double down the third-base line in the fourth put St. Louis up 3-2. His two-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth whipped the crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.
Oswalt walked Lance Berkman and hit Matt Holliday, making his first start of the series, to start the fourth. Right fielder Hunter Pence made a fine running catch at the warning track to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases, but Freese jumped on a hanging curveball with a drive down the left-field line.
Holliday singled with one out in the sixth and Freese hit a 1-0 pitch to the pasture in straightaway center, not far from where a squirrel made an early appearance, for a three-run cushion. A squirrel also interrupted play in the fifth, racing across the plate an instant after Oswalt's pitch to Skip Schumaker passed for a ball.
Oswalt argued with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, asking for no pitch. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also argued without success and Schumaker, flied out to center on the next pitch.
In Game 3 Tuesday, a squirrel was seen scampering in foul territory along the third base line.
Five pitches into the game, the Phillies had a 2-0 lead with an assist from the late-afternoon playing conditions.
Jay, standing in bright sunshine while shadows, took one step in on leadoff man Jimmy Rollins' drive on the first pitch of the game and retreated too late for a ball just over his glove that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
Utley tripled just inside the first-base line three pitches later and Pence lined an RBI single on the next pitch.
NOTES: 2B Schumaker was taken out with a left hamstring cramp after a flyout in the fifth — the same at-bat the squirrel made its appearance. After disrupting play, the squirrel scampered through the stands. Schumaker is 5 for 8 in the series. ... Rollins doubled and had an infield hit his first two trips and has nine hits in the series. He has 14 multihit games in the playoffs, passing Howard for most in franchise history. -- (AP)
To say the Phillies are struggling after a terrible road trip where they went 3-10 in their last 10 games would be an understatement. After getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies will be trying to get back on the winning side Tuesday night, June 19 when they face the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Cole Hamels (9-3, 3.34 ERA), who has been the Phillies best pitcher this season, will step on the rubber. Hamels will go up against Josh Outman (0-2, 8.44 ERA) of the Rockies.
The Phillies have a 31-37 record and are firmly in last place in the National League East, nine games out of first place in the standings. They’re five games out in the race for the two NL Wild Card spots. The San Francisco Giants (37-30) and Atlanta Braves (35-31) are the top two teams in the standings for those playoff berths.
Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Fame relief pitcher and baseball analyst for TBS, feels the Phillies still have a chance to get back into the playoff race and land a spot in the postseason. Eckersley knows the Phillies are trying to tread water until they can hopefully get second baseman Chase Utley and possibly first baseman Ryan Howard back in the lineup. Utley has been suffering from chronic knee problems. Howard has a torn left Achilles. He realizes the Phillies have to climb out of a big hole with the injuries to Howard and Utley as well as pitching ace Roy Halladay (right shoulder injury).
“When you really think about it thank goodness for the extra Wild Card for a lot of people and then particular with the Phillies,” Eckersley said. “Will they overcome those injuries? I would assume I don’t know. I’m not close enough. Like Halladay, what’s going on with him and the Howard-Utley situation? But they had a hard time last year offensively with those guys and the pitching was there. They’ve been good for so long and everything went well for them. They were good, but you have to have the right things happen. This year, it seems like everything is not clicking. Right down to (Cliff) Lee hasn’t won a game yet. That’s hard to do. I mean he’s so good. Sometimes things just don’t happen and let alone have all these injuries like they’ve had.”
The NL East is one of the best divisions in baseball. The Washington Nationals (38-26) and Atlanta Braves are the two top teams respectively in the division. The Phillies would have to leap frog over them as well as the New York Mets (35-31) and Miami Marlins (33-33) who are both ahead of them. But with Major League Baseball adding the second Wild Card, that keeps the Phillies season alive.
“The problem is too many teams in that division who have gotten better,” Eckersley said. “So, it’s going to be difficult even if they’re full force. I think more than the Phillies being right this year. You have to be happy with the extra Wild Card. It gives you a chance.”
The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last year. The Cardinals got hot at the right time and got into the postseason as the Wild Card. In fact, St. Louis defeated the Phillies, who had won 102 games last year. So, anything is possible.
“When you have Halladay, Lee and Hamels, you can beat anybody,” Eckersley said. “Last year, I was shocked when St. Louis beat them. I really was. It took a 1-0 game to beat them. I’m sure that Phillies fans think that any way they can get there. They got a shot to win it. That’s a great example in St. Louis.”
The Phillies have a big home stand with Colorado, Tampa Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates this week. There’s 94 games left in the season. That’s a lot of baseball yet to be played. Nevertheless, the Phillies are going to have to start winning some series in order to turn this season around.
PHILADELPHIA — Four aces and still a bust.
Armed with the best rotation in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies watched their dream season end well short of a World Series with a 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of their NL playoff Friday night.
Roy Halladay did his part under pressure. It was the bats that flopped with the season on the line.
The fizzlin' Phillies came up empty in the clutch and have all winter to wonder how their championship-or-nothing season ended at home with their No. 1 pitcher on the mound.
Carpenter was the one dealing all the right cards, tossing a three-hitter to send the 102-win Phillies packing.
Expected to peak in October, the Phillies instead simply flopped — the latest disappointment for a team that has turned into the second-biggest spender in the majors.
They followed their 2008 World Series title with a loss to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. A year ago, it was a surprising NL championship series loss against San Francisco.
Now comes the biggest heartache of 'em all — losing to the Cardinals in the NL division series.
Before Game 1, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel proclaimed, "We're going to win the series."
He needed plenty more help from an uptight lineup.
Ryan Howard was 2 for 19 in the series and flied out in the seventh on a 3-0 pitch. He grounded out to end the game and hurt himself while breaking out of the batter's box, crumpling to the ground before he was helped off the field by the training staff.
Howard grabbed his left ankle and went to the turf as the Cardinals celebrated behind him.
Placido Polanco was 2 for 19. Carlos Ruiz was 1 for 17.
Even Chase Utley, who had a solid series, was caught stealing for the first time this season when he was nailed at second in the sixth. When Hunter Pence ended the inning with a weak grounder, boos, an almost-extinct noise in Philly these days, could be heard at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans were distraught, most standing in silence with their hands in their pockets for the final out. Then, they glumly filed out for the last time this season.
Halladay tossed six-hit ball and threw 126 pitches over eight innings, striking out seven with one intentional walk. He had his second straight shaky first inning, allowing a triple and a run-scoring double to open the game, before settling down and keeping the Phillies in the game.
Led by Halladay, the Phillies cruised to their fifth straight NL East title and their franchise-record 102 wins led the majors for the second straight season.
This year at Citizens Bank Park was never about regular-season achievement.
Anything less than a World Series title will be considered a failure by fans, players and management.
They can pin this one on the lineup.
Shane Victorino was stranded at second after a one-out double in the second inning. Victorino, who had two of their three hits, singled in the fourth to give Philadelphia runners at the corners with two outs. Raul Ibanez flied out to right to end the rally.
Utley gave the ball a ride to deep center to open the ninth, but was out. Pence grounded out to third.
Howard ended it — like last season when Giants closer Brian Wilson struck him out looking with the tying run at second base to end Game 6 of the NLCS.
Halladay beat the Cardinals in the opener, despite a shaky start. He allowed a three-run homer to Lance Berkman in the first inning, but dominated the rest of the way.
The Cardinals tagged him in the first again. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple and scored on Skip Schumaker's double.
Somehow, that was enough.
What hurts worse for the rally-towel waving die-hards was that St. Louis wouldn't even be here without help from the Phillies.
The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10½ games on Aug. 25, but went 23-8 the rest of the way and earned a wild-card berth after game No. 162 when Philadelphia completed a three-game sweep in Atlanta.
NOTES: Philadelphia's postseason record is 49-54. ... The Phillies hadn't played a decisive postseason game since losing Game 5 of the division series against Montreal in the strike-shortened 1981 season. -- (AP)
Ryan Howard, Phillies first baseman, has been named The Philadelphia Tribune Sports Person of the Year. Howard is one of the city’s most community minded professional athletes. Earlier this month, he made a huge contribution to the School District of Philadelphia.
The Ryan Howard Foundation will donate Adidas athletic wear valued at $1.2 million to the School District of Philadelphia. The award will allow 57 high schools with sports programs to select athletic shoes and apparel that will match the schools’ colors. Four middle school athletic programs will also receive shoes.
“All of us from the Ryan Howard Family Foundation feel very blessed to help the School District of Philadelphia,” Howard said. “I want to give a special thanks to Adidas for their contributions for athletic shoes to the foundation to help us expand our gift to the school district. When we look at the budget challenges the school district faces, it’s important for us to each kind of play a part and it’s important to us to become more active in actions to help promote a quality education.”
In addition, the foundation recently distributed 225 coats, gloves and hats as well as 100 turkeys for holiday meals to Hunting Park residents and neighborhood organizations during a holiday gathering with music, food and décor at the Hunting Park Recreation Center, 900 West Hunting Park Avenue.
Howard, a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, has been nursing an Achilles injury as he prepares for next season. In spite of his injury, he still remains committed to helping youngsters throughout the city. Howard is one of the best players in Major League Baseball. He batted .253 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI last season. He has received a lot of attention for his baseball prowess, but he has also been recognized for his efforts off the field.
He was a nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which honors a MLB player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. The Phillies slugger has made a big difference in the community with his foundation.
The Ryan Howard Family Foundation was started in 2009. The mission of the foundation is to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth and families. The foundation supports programs that promote education, health and fitness, and economic growth for these families, throughout the Philadelphia region.
TAMPA — Last August, after Hunter Pence arrived in the lineup, the Phillies scored 132 runs (third in the National League), sported a .436 slugging percentage (tied for second) and hit 33 home runs, more than they had hit in any other month in the 2012 season.
Pence was an important part of the often-criticized lineup’s resurgence. But so was one of the guys who could have lost playing time with Pence’s arrival as the Phillies’ every-day right fielder.
John Mayberry Jr. hit six home runs in 18 games last August. Among players with at least 50 plate appearances, Mayberry’s .685 slugging percentage that month ranked fifth in the National League.
Whether that short run of eye-opening success will be a harbinger for the 2012 season remains to be seen. The four players with better slugging percentages last August included two perennial MVP candidates (Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez) and two random NL West catchers (Nick Hundley and Rod Barajas).
But with Ryan Howard out for the beginning of the season and Raul Ibanez no longer patrolling left field, Mayberry, for the first time in his career, will have time to establish himself as a productive major-league player in 2012.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” Mayberry said Sunday, when he went 1-for-3 with a double in the Phillies’ 7-4 loss to the Yankees in an exhibition game in Tampa. “I definitely view it as an opportunity to realize one of the goals I had since I signed Day One, and that’s to be an everyday player.”
Coincidentally, one of the people with the most confidence in Mayberry’s ability to expand his success over the duration of a season happens to be the guy he could be replacing as the Phillies’ regular left fielder. Ibanez, who signed with the Yankees last month, spoke glowingly of Mayberry prior to Sunday’s game.
“It’s not just the work ethic and the want, and he’s obviously got the talent and the ability, but it’s his desire to learn, his desire to improve that makes him special,” Ibanez said. “It’s what has put him in the position he’s in now, where he can be a dominant player.”
“Absolutely,” Ibanez said. “I think he can be a dominant player. He proved that last year. He popped 15 homers in a limited time.”
After playing in 50 games with the Phillies in 2009 and 2010, Mayberry carved out a role as a legitimate major-league reserve last season, when he hit .273 with a .341 on-base percentage and an .854 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 104 games. He also hit 15 home runs, 17 doubles and racked up 49 RBIs.
Mayberry also got better as the season progressed — and as he got more regular playing time.
In a 38-game stretch from Independence Day to Labor Day, Mayberry hit .296 with a 1.012 OPS, 10 home runs, nine doubles, a triple and 32 RBIs. He started 25 of those 38 games.
Mayberry’s surge at the plate coincided with his return from a monthlong stay at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
“Hopefully those days are behind me,” Mayberry said.
At 28 years old, Mayberry wouldn’t be the only late bloomer to play in the Phillies outfield. Jayson Werth didn’t become a regular until 2008, when he was 29, and Ibanez was 30 when the Kansas City Royals gave him the opportunity to play every day.
After spending countless hours in the batting cages with Mayberry in the last three years, Ibanez knows his former teammate has the makeup to achieve similar success.
“He always has a desire to learn and listen, he seeks you out to learn and to listen — and what a great quality to have,” Ibanez said. “And he takes it to heart. He’s obviously very bright, but he’s also humble at the same time. And I think having that humility, it helps him; he wants to learn and get better all the time. He’s always trying to find a way to get better.”
Those traits should help Mayberry become more accustomed to playing first base, too. He hasn’t played the position regularly since he was in Stanford in 2005 — coincidentally the last year Jim Thome also played the position regularly — but Mayberry has started at first in each of the Phillies’ first three exhibition games.
But the 6-6 Mayberry looked like an old pro Sunday when he robbed New York’s Mark Teixeira of extra bases by stabbing a ball just inside the bag to end the first inning.
“I thought it was foul,” pitcher Roy Halladay said. “I don’t know how he got it, but, I mean, he’s an athletic player, he’s a big guy and he did a great job last year.”
“He’s got the natural athletic ability and he can play all three outfield spots and first base,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “That might be how he plays every day.” — (AP)
This has been a very difficult week for me, and probably for most Philadelphians.
Last weekend was one of the most brutally painful experiences in my 40-odd years as a Philly sports fan. I mean, it’s one thing to watch the Phillies — the mightiest team in major league baseball — wash away a historic season because they can’t make up one stinkin’ run on the St. Louis Cardinals.
But to literally add insult to injury, we were treated to the sight of all-star slugger Ryan Howard, who may have stunk up the Cardinals series worse than anyone; rupture his Achilles tendon in that last futile at-bat. Swung for all he was worth, missed the ball badly and corkscrewed himself into the dirt next to home plate. He’s out at least six to nine months, maybe a year, maybe forever.
Then Sunday we watched the Eagles go 1-4 by losing to the Buffalo Bills. To their credit, the Bills are, along with the Detroit Lions, one of this season’s early pleasant surprises.
My beloved Eagles, on the other hand, are awful. I’m not proud of it, but it had to be said. A defense known for 20 years as one of the league’s most dangerous is now incapable of tackling anyone. This supposed “wide 9” defensive setup the Eagles have adopted should be renamed “15 yards up the middle” — which is the usual result.
The defensive backs refuse to hit anyone for fear they’ll break a nail, the team lacks anything remotely resembling a middle linebacker, and Michael Vick completes most of his passes to guys who are not wearing green uniforms. In Vick’s defense, if there is any, the number of times he’s been thrown violently to the ground this season may be affecting his decision making skills. Pain will do that.
But this column is not so much about last weekend’s sports lowlights, or about the yearly humiliation of the Philly sports fanatic. It’s more about how these things prove a momentary distraction at exactly the wrong time, taking our eye off more important questions — like who the hell these “Occupy” people are and what they want.
It started in New York City as “Occupy Wall Street” a semi-directionless protest against the excesses of bankers and big business.
Sure, it was mostly the usual unwashed masses of college students, hippies and professional protesters — but this time there was a difference. Some strange bedfellows joined those protestors — tea partiers, libertarians and lots of suit-and-tie good government types were out there as well.
When the protests spread around the country, including here in Philadelphia on the west apron of City Hall known as Dilworth Plaza — they were welcomed as champions of the downtrodden, attracting local politicians and dignitaries eager to be seen as ‘regular’ people.
Now that the protests have entered their second week, you’ll notice a subtle but definitive attitude change.
Already there have been stories planted in the local press about how much the protest is costing Philadelphians in terms of police overtime and surveillance, and how the price tag may go up. According to these published reports, “Occupy Philadelphia” has cost taxpayers something in the neighborhood of $400,000.
Already there are blogs and comment boards leaning toward the “Go home and get a job, ya bunch of losers!” side. Somehow, and most brilliantly, the millionaires and profiteers have managed to get some regular middle class people to not only agree with their narrow worldview, but to preach it to others.
Soon enough, the protestors will be painted as interlopers, outside agitators and expensive unwanted houseguests — all in a massive marketing effort designed to spin doctor the protesters into irrelevance, and hopefully obscurity.
No mention though, you’ll notice, of how much the corporate bigwigs and bankers — you know, the ones the protestors are against — are costing those same taxpayers. No mention of how many Philly taxpayer dollars are burned on the altar of DROP, or paid out in pensions to felonious former police officers, or handed out to contributors and cronies like Halloween candy.
By my admittedly poor math, even if the “Occupy Philadelphia” protests continue to cost $400,000 per week, they have about 587,500 more weeks before it reaches the $245 billion it cost us to bail out the “too big to fail” banks in the first place.
Which makes the “Occupy” protests seem like a pretty good bargain.
It’s been a great year for Ryan Howard on the field. He leads the Philadelphia Phillies with 33 home runs and 112 RBI. Howard has guided the Phillies to playoff a berth along with the best record in baseball.
The Phillies first baseman has also done well off the field. Major League Baseball recently announced that Howard was named the 2011 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.
Howard is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
The award pays tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. It is named for the 12-time MLB all-star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
The Ryan Howard Foundation, which was launched in 2009, has a mission of improving the quality of life for others, in particular for disadvantaged youth and families. This is achieved primarily through the development and implementation of programs that advance education, health and fitness, and social economic status. The foundation currently helps to fund programs in both the Philadelphia and St. Louis areas.
One of the foundation’s first initiatives was to award a $50,000 grant to Hunting Park in North Philadelphia, which is being used to restore a baseball diamond. When the project broke ground in 2010, Howard was inspired to add another $100,000 to his previous donation. He was there when the teams stepped onto a neighboring field using $10,000 of equipment and uniforms donated by the Phillies slugger and Howard is as excited as the players, coaches and families for the project’s completion.
Howard also believes that while the children should enjoy playing baseball, they should also put an emphasis on school.
“I still remember seeing my dad graduate. It meant so much to him and to be able to do that and it meant so much to me,” Howard said. “Growing up, education was very, very important. If you didn’t get your homework done you couldn’t play sports.”
It is the emphasis on education within his family that propelled the foundation to develop a relationship with the United Negro College Fund to provide promising ingoing freshman pursuing higher education at a four-year accredited institution with financial assistance. In 2010, the foundation awarded $90,000 in scholarships to college-bound students in the Philadelphia and St. Louis metropolitan areas and an additional $90,000 will be awarded for the 2011–12 school year.
The foundation held the inaugural Celebrity Servers fundraiser that raised $116,000 to benefit the foundations good works. This season’s event, held July 21, raised nearly $200,000.
Howard received an honorary badge from the Philadelphia Police Athletic League during “PAL Night at the Phillies” in August 2008, recognizing his community service. He will be recognized on Sept. 19 on the field at Citizens Bank Park. In addition to being honored as the club’s nominee, he will also receive the Phillies Community Service Award.
All fans are encouraged to participate in the selection process for the national award recipient by visiting www.chevybaseball.com/clemente, a site powered by MLB.com and created specifically for the award to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. The voting ends on October 9.
For the first time since Jimmy Rollins declared the Philadelphia Phillies were the team to beat in the division before they even won anything, they'll open spring training with something to prove.
The Phillies' streak of five consecutive NL East titles that began with Rollins' bold declaration in 2007 ended last year when they finished 81-81 and in third place behind Washington and Atlanta.
Since winning the franchise's second World Series championship in 2008, the Phillies have taken one step backward each season. They lost the 2009 World Series, the 2010 NLCS, and were eliminated in the NLDS in 2011.
After missing out on the postseason in 2012, the Phillies hope to make another run. The quest begins Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
Here are five top questions facing the Phillies this spring:
1. Are the injured stars healthy?
Injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay were a major reason why the Phillies slumped last year. Utley and Howard, the team's Nos. 3-4 hitters, combined to miss 160 games to start the season. Halladay, the No. 1 starter, missed a two-month stretch in the middle.
Utley hasn't played a Grapefruit League game since 2010 because of chronic knee problems. He was more active this offseason and is expected to be ready for Opening Day, barring any setbacks. But, Utley's production began to decline before the injuries. His batting average has dropped every year since he hit a career-high .332 in 2007. His power numbers also are trending downward.
Utley averaged .301 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs between 2005-09 and made five straight All-Star teams. Since 2010, he's averaged .264, 13 and 51. The 34-year-old Utley is entering the final year of his contract, so he needs a solid year to get another lucrative deal.
Howard returned to the lineup right before the All-Star break last season after recovering from surgery on a torn Achilles' tendon. He hit just .219 and struck out 99 times in 260 at-bats. But the three-time All-Star first baseman also had 14 homers and drove in 56 runs in only 71 games.
Howard is entering the second season of a $125 million, five-year extension. The Phillies need the former NL MVP to be the player who averaged 44 homers and 133 RBIs between 2006-11.
Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, was plagued by a shoulder problem last year. He'll be 36 in May and has thrown nearly 2,700 innings. So, his days as a dominant pitcher may be over.
Halladay won 40 games, and threw a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in his first two seasons with the Phillies in 2010-11. He was 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 25 starts last year.
There may be no player in the majors with a stronger work ethic and more dedication to his craft than Halladay. He's determined to regain his old form, and those who know Halladay wouldn't bet against him.
2. Who plays the outfield?
The Phillies used to be loaded in the outfield with former All-Stars Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence. They also had slugger Pat Burrell in '07 and '08. Now they'll have at least two and possibly three new starters.
Ben Revere was acquired from Minnesota to play center field. Delmon Young was signed as a free agent to play right field, though he hasn't played there regularly since 2007. Left field will be up for grabs between rookie Darin Ruf, former top prospect Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr.
Ruf, the minor-league home run champion in 2012, is making the transition to the outfield after playing first base. He hit 38 homers in Double-A and Triple-A last season, and has potential to be a legitimate slugger in the big leagues.
Revere is a singles hitter, but his speed is an asset. Young could provide much-needed balance to a left-handed heavy lineup if he stays in shape and out of trouble. He hit .267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs for Detroit last season, and was MVP of the ALCS against the New York Yankees.
3. Will Michael Young be a solution at third base?
The Phillies acquired the seven-time All-Star infielder from Texas to replace Placido Polanco at third base. Young, a former Gold Glove winner at shortstop, hasn't played third regularly since 2010. He's also coming off a down year at the plate by his standards (.277, 8, 67).
The team expects the 36-year-old Young to benefit from being able to concentrate on playing one position after filling a utility role the last two seasons. The peace of mind could not only help his defense, but his offense. From 2003-11, Young hit at least .300 seven times and averaged 17 homers and 90 RBIs.
4. Can pitching get the Phillies over the top?
The Phillies slugged their way to the postseason in 2007-09 and then relied on their aces and a strong bullpen in 2010-11. Their lineup clearly lacks the punch it once had, so the Phillies have to do it with pitching. Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, if they're all healthy, are still as formidable as any top 3 on any staff. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan round out the rotation, which has dropped off since Roy Oswalt was the No. 4 starter.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon is coming off an All-Star season in his first year in Philadelphia. Giving Papelbon leads to protect was the problem. The Phillies improved their late-inning situation by signing Mike Adams. The righty has been one of the best setup men for several years. If Antonio Bastardo pitches the way he did in 2011 and some of the young arms step up, the bullpen could be the team's biggest strength.
5. How will Charlie Manuel handle lame-duck status?
Manuel enters his ninth season as the team's manager. He's first on the franchise's all-time list in wins and is one of only two managers — Dallas Green was the other in 1980 — to lead the Phillies to a World Series title in 130 seasons. But Manuel is in the final year of his contract and his potential heir apparent — Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg — will be in the dugout this year.
The Phillies promoted Sandberg from Triple-A manager to third-base coach. Manuel's success gives him some leeway, but there certainly will be plenty of speculation about his job if the Phillies struggle early or endure a long losing streak. — (AP)