CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies’ schedule billed Monday as the team’s first full-squad workout of spring training, but that was obviously a mistake. This was actually sensory-overload day at the ballpark.
It started with a clubhouse visit from Jason Kelce, the center of the Super Bowl champion Eagles and the man who had strutted up Broad Street in a Mummer’s costume 11 days earlier before bringing down the house with an expletive-laden speech about underdogs.
First, Kelce put on one of the “Be Bold” T-shirts that had been distributed to all the Phillies’ players ahead of Monday’s workout. Then he talked to the team before donning a red No. 62 jersey with his name on the back and taking a tour of the fields with clubhouse manager Phil Sheridan.
“The message was tremendous,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “He was very articulate in describing what went on for them the last calendar year. He touched on how the Eagles saw themselves as underdogs and what a powerfully inspirational position that is to be in. I thought he really hammered that home well.”
If he did it half as well as his performance on the Art Museum steps, then his point came across loud and clear.
“That’s unbelievable, a Super Bowl champion comes in and talks to us on our first day,” said second-base prospect Scott Kingery. “That’s pretty cool. I was rooting for the Eagles. I’m a Cardinals fan because I’m from Arizona, but if I had to choose one in that game it was the Eagles.”
You almost felt sorry for the Philadelphia Union players who also were at the Carpenter Complex for the Phillies’ workout but could not garner much attention because of Kelce’s presence. The Union, who are also going through preseason training sessions across the street from the Phillies’ spring-training stadium, did kick the ball around some with pitcher Vince Velasquez in the clubhouse.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 19, 2018
Kelce’s timing could not have been better for Kapler because he wants winning to be the team’s central theme from the start of spring training. The manager expressed that sentiment Sunday night at a team dinner in downtown Clearwater and got his players riled up by showing a highlight video that had been put together by Kevin Camiscioli and Dan Stephenson, two longtime members of the Phillies’ video department.
“That was unlike anything I’ve ever done,” Kingery said. “You rarely get all the players and the coaching staff together at one time away from the field and then they showed some highlights from last year and some clips from the Super Bowl. It was good. They actually also snuck in some minor-league highlights, too. They got one of my home runs.”
Kingery, the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2015, hit 26 of them last season, so there were a lot to choose from. He’s still a step away from being in the big leagues, but he gets a sense that things are changing for the Phillies, who have not had a winning record since 2011.
“Honestly, the whole time I’ve been here for the past week, it’s just a different feel,” Kingery said. “I think there is just a lot of positive energy and a lot of positive vibes and a lot of confidence flowing through the clubhouse right now. I can’t tell you if it’s from the group of guys we have and everybody looks up and sees the names that we have and who we brought in and thinks, ‘Hey, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be winning games,’ or if it’s the new coaching staff.”
The coaching staff is definitely doing some things different, which was evident again on the first day with the full squad. At the end of Monday’s workout, one group of players that included catchers Cameron Rupp and Jorge Alfaro could be seen working with a yoga instructor, and three young players – Kingery, Dylan Cozens, and Andrew Pullin – were engaged in a long on-field conversation with Kapler.
“That was just about nutrition and talking about our bodies and just trying to figure out ways to maximize our abilities and our energy levels; just ways to keep our bodies healthy individually,” Kingery said. “That is something I need a lot because I’m a smaller guy. [Kapler] originally came up to me earlier in the day and we talked about my body fat and what it’s like to go through a 162-game season and the toll that takes on your body and the weight you lose.”
It was a full day for the Phillies’ full squad as they started their trek through the long season with lots of hope and lots of things going on around them.