Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sat down Friday to talk about the most anticipated season in franchise history with spring training only two weeks away. He also shared thoughts about his love for his adopted hometown, his longtime companion Missy Martin, family, and other passions during a 30-minute, question-and-answer session.
Question: Is this the most excited you've ever been at the start of a season?
Manuel: "When I start thinking of our pitching staff and what it can be, this definitely is the most excited I've been in a long time. Also, I'm excited about getting started again because we finished the season on kind of a down note. I think our guys were disappointed we couldn't get to the World Series and that's how I left them that night. But now that we've picked up [Cliff] Lee, that's a big up for us. That shows where our organization wants to go and how much we're trying to get back to the World Series and win."
Q: What's your most vivid memory of that October night when you were eliminated by San Francisco?
Manuel: "Just our guys and how you could tell they were hurt. I think that will last through the winter and stay with them. We felt like we were the best team and we didn't accomplish our goal. I heard Lee at his press conference say that if we didn't go to the World Series, we wouldn't meet our expectations. But our expectations the last four or five years have been to go to the World Series."
Q: You said recently you consider yourself a Phillie for life. Do you also consider yourself a Philadelphian and, if so, why?
Manuel: "Yeah, I do. Everywhere I go, whether it's to the grocery store or out somewhere, there are people who I can talk to. Even when I go to [my home in] Winter Haven, people from Philadelphia want to talk to me. I definitely feel like in the last six years with the things we've done on the field that this is the place I belong, and this is where I want to stay. This is where I want to end my career."
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the city?
Manuel: "On off days, I like to go down to the [Italian] Market and walk around. I'll go hit golf balls at times. Probably the biggest thing I like to do is get in my car and drive around. I like to go out in the city and in the country both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I love going up toward Reading and also into Amish country. I like to go up into Scranton. I like to go through the coal-mine areas. Over where I live in Haddonfield, I really like that. But most of my time is spent at the ballpark."
Q: Where do you like to eat in the city or even New Jersey?
Manuel: "I think there's a place called Giumarello's [in Westmont, N.J.]. It's a family kind of steak house. In the city, I like Capital Grille, McCormick & Schmick's, Smith & Wollensky, Ruth's Chris, and Ted's Montana Grill. I love the city. I like to just walk around in the city."
Q: In the media guide, it says that you and Missy are engaged. So when's the wedding?
Manuel: "I'll put it to you just like I tell her: When I get time. I mean that. That might sound like a cop-out. Seriously, when I can settle and get time . . . but let me tell you something, I look at Missy as my wife. It's just a matter of us getting married. I don't know what I'd do without Missy. She has been with me all through my health issues and I look at her as the woman I definitely want to be around and with."
Q: What do you love most about her?
Manuel: "She's funny. She laughs a lot, and she likes to do things that I like to do. She'll sit in the car and wait on me after games, and she never says anything about it. The only thing is she has trouble watching games, especially the real tight ones. She cannot watch them. It's too much for her. I actually don't like to talk about baseball with her. We don't talk baseball a lot, and maybe that's something I like about her, too, because that's my down time away from baseball when I'm with her. We just get along real good together."
Q: You just talked about your [family]. How difficult was it to see what happened to Dallas Green's 9-year-old granddaughter out in Tucson earlier this month?
Manuel: "I left Dallas a message, and I want to talk to him in person, too. It was hard for me to relate to something like that. I can't imagine having to deal with something like that. I've been thinking about it ever since it happened. I saw pictures of his granddaughter on TV. I don't even know her and I loved her. I don't know what I'd do if that happened to me."
Q: There are millions of Phillies fans out there who want to buy their World Series tickets. Do you have to remind your team about the long journey they must take before that happens?
Manuel: "Yeah, it's a long journey. We have to play. If we just play like we always have, then things are going to be good for us. That is always what has worked for us. We want to keep the part where we play the game right, show up on time, and focus on what we're doing."