CLEARWATER, Fla. — David Montgomery, growing up in Roxborough, used to throw a pillow onto his family’s linoleum porch and act like he was Richie Ashburn sliding into second base. Montgomery would rise years later to become Phillies president, but then he was just a five-year-old Phillies fan whose mother often told him to treat others the way he would want to be treated.
It was those two things — his passion for the Phillies and his respect for others — that resulted in a banner dropping Thursday morning in Clearwater to rename the team’s indoor training facility as the David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center. The ceremony, a surprise to Montgomery, was attended by every major- and minor-league player and coach in the organization, front office members, and team owners.
“The word is overwhelmed but the reality is that it was special that the whole organization was here because, as you know, that’s what I believe in,” said Montgomery, now the club’s chairman. “I believe that in whatever capacity you work for us, you determine the Phillies family. I believe that.”
The Phillies opened the $4 million facility in 2013 as the first indoor climate-controlled training center at a major-league spring-training site. It is used by the team year-round in Clearwater for training, rehabilitation, and daily workouts. Phillies president Andy MacPhail invited Montgomery to the Carpenter Complex on Thursday morning for a “meeting” about some improvements they have planned for next season. Upon arrival, Montgomery saw the major-league players assembled near the pitching mounds.
“I saw Odubel [Herrera] standing over there and thought he’s at the wrong field,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery was then pushed by executive vice president David Buck into the ceremony. John Middleton, Larry Bowa, and longtime minor-league coach Roly De Armas made speeches before Montgomery addressed the crowd.
He told the crowd how he started with the Phillies in 1971 selling season tickets after graduating from Penn. He never worked a day in his life, Montgomery said. He was 24 years old and his office cubicle was next to Ashburn, two decades after Montgomery was sliding like Whitey on his Roxborough porch. Montgomery’s Phillies career, now entering its 48th season, was set to begin.
“I’ve just been so fortunate,” Montgomery said. “I’ve just had tremendous opportunities in the game. To have grown up as a sports fan of all sports, my wife would say, but baseball I would say in particular. To have coached a little bit in high school and what not in different sports and then have your first and only job be in sports. I’ve had the opportunity to work for the team I rooted for in the city I’ve lived in and loved my entire life.”
Home plate umpire Tom Hallion ejected two Phillies pitchers, a Tigers pitcher, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and bench coach Rob Thomson after the teams exchanged hit by pitches. The incident started in the fifth when Tigers lefthander Matt Boyd threw twice at Odubel Herrera and was tossed. Boyd fired over Herrera’s head and then inside. Both pitches missed Herrera but the Hallion ruled that the second one grazed him and awarded him first.
“He tried to hit me,” Herrera said. “But he can’t. I’m too quick for that.”
Kapler was tossed in the seventh along with minor-leaguer Parker Frazier after the righthander hit Derek Hill with a slider. Thomson was tossed with Pedro Beato, who hit the leadoff batter in the ninth. Frazier had his fiance and in-laws in town from Oklahoma and it was their first time seeing him pitch in a pro game. He learned in the morning that he would join the major leaguers for a day and started his outing with a strikeout. Then his slider failed to break off the plate.
“They texted me, ‘What happened,'” Frazier said. “I told them accidental hit pitch.”
The Phillies granted Ryan Flaherty his unconditional release after he requested to opt-out of his contract. He was competing for a spot on the Phillies bench…Aaron Nola will start Friday against Pittsburgh in Bradenton.