What will Alumni Weekend be like for the Phillies 20 years from now?
Will they cheer the return of players like Odubel Herrera, Cameron Rupp, Aaron Nola, Mikael Franco & co? Lauding them as conquering heroes who struggled for oh, so long, before getting it together and pulling this franchise back to the top? Or will they grumble how these guys who let them down so much in 2017 continued to be a disappointment throughout their careers?
Without having a crystal ball, who can say? What Pete Mackanin’s last-place crew does know for sure is how much this fan base cares, being reminded of it this past weekend when they saw the love showered upon three franchise icons who’ve passed on Dallas Green, Jim Bunning and just this week, Darren Daulton.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Cameron Rupp, who’s suddenly finds himself one of the Phils’ elder statesman at 29, despite being in just his fourth season. “I spent some time around Dallas in minors and in spring training. He always came over to me and said hello. The same way with Dutch. We didn’t talk a whole lot about baseball. Mainly small talk. But hearing (Larry) Bowa and Mickey (Morandini) talk about him you get to know what kind of impact he had on all his teammates..”
Surrounded by some of the franchise’s greatest figures Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt soberly reminded the 34,181 on hand Saturday — most of whom had originally expected to celebrate the induction of Pete Rose into the Phillies Wall of Fame before that was scuttled — it wasn’t that long ago all were still with us.
“It was one year ago Dallas, and Jim and Darren stood on this stage,” said Schmidt, flanked by Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Jim Thome among others. “Think about it. Those of us in the Wall of Fame will miss those guys, but will celebrate their lives and the memories they left behind.”
Then Sunday, a coterie of 46 former Phillies of all generations, ranging from Don Money, to Bake McBride, to Von Hayes, to Desi Relaford, were introduced prior to the Phils-Mets finale, along with every member of the ’93 National League champions wearing Daulton’s No. 10. That can’t help but have players like Rupp wondering what it will be like for them years from now.
“Absolutely, that’s every one of our dreams,” said Rupp, “Not only to get here, but to be somebody the organization will recognize forever. It’s very special to experience these guys coming back and be recognized for everything they did for this organization, whether it was winning a World Series, or just winning ballgames. It’s awesome.”
Especially for Mark Leiter Jr., who got live out a childhood fantasy when he stood besides his father, Mark, Sr., who pitched here from 1997-98.
“It was definitely a goal of mine to be here for this event and to be on the field with my dad will be very cool,” said the 26-year-old Leiter, who was only 7 when his dad wore red Phillies pinstripes “It was something we talked about when I was in high school. I‘ve gone with him to Alumni Weekend a couple of times. The Phillies were always a very family organization. They treat their players really well. This is a nice way to see them honored on the field.”
An honor which only becomes more appreciated through the years.
“I remember the Old Timers’ games they used to have,” recalled former second baseman turned first base coach, Morandini. “To meet a lot of these guys as a young player was a thrill for me. I don’t know what these guys think nowadays I know they want to be good ballplayers and I’d hope they would want to be Wall of Famers or someone special. To come back for alumni weekend and hear (PA man) Dan Baker say my name is always special.”