I had the privilege of attending and donating to charity by purchasing a ticket to a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what happens prior to the baseball season each year around the world of Major League Baseball. It’s something that the average baseball fan or even huge baseball fan may not give much thought to. I also made a video that is on the FightinPhillies Youtube channel with some valuable information on not only life lessons you can use with career pursuit in baseball, but perhaps some advice that anyone could use in the game of life in any career path.
College students from local colleges and many from New York and the midwest and elsewhere descended upon the ballpark in Philadelphia the other day, it was a chance to get a foot into the door of a multi-billion dollar industry that is not unlike the other major sports industries like the NHL, NBA, and even the NFL.
In Philly this year, there is a change of management, and what a lot of these students heard from Gabe Kapler, who is known around the baseball world as “Kap” – should stay in the minds of these students for many years hopefully. Kapler spoke about his life experiences in baseball. Names like Johnny Oates, a name that probably wasn’t too well known by this crowd, and the life’s lesson that he taught Kapler by simply having faith in him that by taking him aside in Spring Training when he was a young player, he told him in Spring Training many years ago, “Relax, you are my starting right fielder.” That comment inspired Kapler and let him know that Oates had tremendous confidence in him as a player, and Kapler took that and uses that philosophy today when he evaluates his own guys on this Phillies team as we all forward to the start of Spring Training 2018.
Rhys Hoskins was at the presentation, and we all know what he did last year. 18 homeruns in a short season, is not easy to do. The presence of a guy like Hoskins on this year’s Phillies team is huge, he’s very patient at the plate and so humble in his approach to the game, that he plays like an already seasoned veteran of many years. Hoskins had some great advice for the students too.
This ‘College Summit’ was a great testament to the spirit of baseball, a very talented group of people who are actually the commodity in the world. Will the Phillies be able to hire some of these bright minds someday? Maybe they will, but there are so many avenues for the college crowd to take, different industries, different opportunities, with many of those opportunities that pay much more than an internship at a ballpark. The students, including me, who returned to college after many years, to seek an opportunity. Follow a passion and get some words of wisdom that hopefully everyone in the room soaked in, it was a very valuable Summit, and a first class presentation by the Phillies.
The team had a very nice buffet in the Phillies clubhouse, pretzels, Brie cheese and vegetables with ranch dip, among other food for the students. Importantly, the Phillies organization showed off the 2 World Championship trophies as well. The trophies were there to show that the Phillies won this Championship twice, the trophies themselves were gleaming. I asked a fellow attendee which one he like the most, he said the 1980 one, which I agreed with, as the design of the ’80 one was really much better. The fellow student pointed out to me that the older one also had all of the team names on the flags around the perimeter of the trophy which was cool.
The sabermetric crowd was abuzz with college students that really seemed to embrace the idea but also, I think that the group of Phillies presenters from that department including, Director of Baseball Research and Development, Andy Galdi, a former employee at Google, and graduate of North Carolina in 2008 and then went onto Stanford in California. Galdi and his team made themselves available after the summit to continue the conversation about what this department does for the Phillies. I could only think that if Kap and Hoskins were also there and made themselves available as well, who would have gotten the bigger following among the students in attendance, as everyone there were huge baseball fans and can’t wait for the season to start. I talked with a student from New York who was a Yankee fan, I told him, “You guys are going to be great in ’18 with Stanton and Judge on the same team.” He broke out in a big smile and then reeled off more ways in which he thought the Yankees would rule the AL this coming season.
When the end of the Summit came, there was ample time to tour the batting cages, and mingle and network for the students among themselves as much as with the Phillies. A civil engineer major had perhaps one of the best comments of the whole Summit and it was answered very well by Gabe Kapler, who was enthusiastic and couldn’t wait for the 2018 Spring Training season to unfold.
Kapler and another player had spent some time in Atlantic City, NJ earlier that day, getting to know one another and had some fun before attending the Summit. The two probably walked around town without being recognized as MLB player and manager. It’s part of Kapler’s plan to let players ‘be themselves’ and thereby that loosens up the atmosphere around the clubhouse and let’s players have a fun time – not too unlike the previous manager, Pete Mackanin, had going on with the team, but perhaps Kap, who is not as far removed from the playing days of the game, can more easily relate to this group of players in 2018.