An Interview With the Phillies Fan Who Threw Back Carlos Lee's Home Run at CBP

An Interview With the Phillies Fan Who Threw Back Carlos Lee's Home Run at CBP

Throwing an opposing team's home run ball back at Citizens Bank Park has been debated since the day the beautiful facility opened. Personally, I have always been against throwing the ball back on to the field, leaving that tradition to the bleacher bums at Wrigley. That said, I've never caught a home run, so I'm not 100% sure what I'd do. Peer pressure and all, ya'know?

Last night, before things got really crazy in extra innings, friend of the Level and the man behind trying to bring the Athletics back to Philadelphia, J T. Ramsay caught the ball Carlos Lee belted into the left field seats off of Cole Hamels to give the Astros the a 2-0 lead. He promptly tossed the ball back onto the field.

Following the game, we asked J T. about his cannon/experience.

[watch the home run here and look for J T. at the 18 second mark]

Enrico: Have you ever caught a ball before?

J T.: I've never caught a ball before. Not so much as a foul ball.

Sitting in left field has been pretty calm overall. Last homer that threatened Section 143 was a floater that Ben Francisco hit. Freaked me out because I had my infant son strapped to me. It landed harmlessly in the flower box.

Did you think before ever catching a HR ball that you'd keep it if it were to happen?

I've given this a lot of thought actually, since we're in row 10 in 143. It's always a possibility, but I stuck to the plan. Biggest fears about it? Not hitting the field and hitting a fan, or somehow beaning Raul if he had his back turned. Fortunately neither happened.

If a Phillie had hit it, and if I'd had my son with me, then, yeah, I would've kept it. But it was Carlos freakin' Lee and my son wasn't with me, so I threw it back. Felt pretty good, actually. Chances are that unless I suddenly learn a knuckleball, 45,000 people are never going to cheer me like that again in my lifetime.

Did you give in to the peer pressure or did you always want to throw it back?

Great question. Can I admit that I sort of think that it sucks that Philly adopted a pretty lame Cubs thing, which has become a trend around the league? And, really, if you're doing anything to emulate Cubs fans, you're probably forgetting the fact that they have a well-documented curse. We're past that. Doing this just seems silly to me.

All the same, it was cathartic. We never give Cole run support and a two-run bomb like that is just the sort of thing that makes lesser fans think he's a bum. I want to be on record that I think Cole has been amazing this year and that if our offense were anything like it has been, these homers would be harmless. Throwing it back felt like the only honest thing to do. Plus, it's the only time I'll probably ever throw a ball in a major league ballpark.
Peer pressure never really was a factor. Cheryl, one of the women who sits in front of me, just said, "Throw it back, J T." and I had to oblige her. We're family in Section 143.

Finally, how much did that game suck?

I have a controversial answer to this question! What if I said it didn't suck and that it exemplified what makes watching the Phillies at the ballpark such a pleasure? Seriously, the game was blazing along for a frustrating 9 innings, when suddenly J-Roll awakes from his torpor to tie it, which results in a marathon game that lasts nearly five and a half hours. When was the last time you saw Danys Baez come up big in a high leverage inning? NEVER!

Sure, the officiating was terrible. It has been often this season. MLB has noticed. But set that aside and consider the product on the field. The Phillies are frustrated. I wish they could fire Milt Thompson again. So do your readers, I bet. Howard has an awful night, gets taunted by the ump, blows a gasket and gets tossed.

What happens next will forever emblazon Roy Oswalt in Phillies folklore. This isn't LaRussa putting Lohse in left during that 20-inning disaster of a game. This is Roy Oswalt getting the Cliff Lee treatment for being a team player. Do you think there's any doubt in his mind he came to the right place now?

Will it suck if we miss the playoffs because we dropped two winnable games to the freakin' Astros? Absolutely. But games like this galvanize the Phillies faithful. You could've heard a pin drop in that place before Howard exploded. The crowd was going wild after 12 AM  on a school night! The loss hurts, but you can't beat the experience.

Enrico: So there you have it. Throw a ball back if you want, but you don't have to.

You can join J T.'s cause to bring the A's back to Philly here or read his blog here.

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.