This spring, when Robin Roberts came to visit the Phillies at Clearwater, Fla., as he does every spring, he came into the clubhouse during a game. Ryan Howard had already come out of the game and was sitting at his locker relaxing when he saw Roberts come into the room.
Immediately, Howard called over to Roberts. The Hall of Fame pitcher sat next to Howard and the two talked for a good 10 minutes.
Upon hearing of Roberts' death Thursday, Phillies players were saddened. Roberts was a legend many of the current Phillies had gotten to know because he was around the team a great deal and always approachable.
"We were just talking, really not anything in particular," Howard said before Thursday's game. "He was always that guy, you just enjoyed being in his company.
"Mr. Roberts was always kind to me. He was a breath of fresh air. He was always so nice, so polite. He was a very upbeat, good-spirited person. He was the kind of person who made you feel warm in his presence."
Some more reaction from Phillies players:
Were you aware of his accomplishments?
"Ever since I've been here, I've looked at things. I looked in the media guide. I spent many times looking at those uniforms in the hallway here. It's pretty cool. You look at, what did he have, 37 complete games? That's something that will never, ever be done again."
What did he talk about?
"He was more of a storyteller of his experiences. Funny stories, serious stories. He never really talked about himself. He was just a really nice person. When he was around, I always tried to say hello to him. I just really enjoyed being around him."
Was there a sense of his importance to this team?
"He's meant a lot to the city. He's meant a lot to this organization. And still, even in his elder years, he's meant a lot to this organization. When we've had pregame ceremonies, he's always been included. People always appreciated him. People knew a lot about him and his career. He wasn't just that guy who pitched all those complete games. He was very respected."
What kind of person was he to you guys?
"One thing he did really well is he followed the game and he knew about pitching now. He wasn't one of those guys who said, well, just do one thing. That's what we did and it worked. He followed pitching and he knew currently what would work. He knew how to set up hitters. He paid a lot of attention. Mentally, he was sharp as a tack. I think we all had a ton of respect for him but we appreciated when he gave us advice."
Did the players sense how important he was?
"Everything around here is him, Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Harry Kalas. These guys are legends in Phillies history. These guys made the Phillies who they are."
Did you get an autograph?
"I actually had a jersey made. He signed it."