Ryan Howard expressed his gratitude to Phillies fans on Sunday afternoon.
He also asked them to do something.
Actually not to do something.
Finishing up his pregame speech during his retirement ceremony at Citizens Bank Park, Howard turned his attention to the current group of Phillies. It’s been a tough six weeks for the club. Losses have mounted and the team has gone from leading the NL East by 3½ games to trailing by 8½.
“Support them the way you supported us,” Howard told the fans. “Let these men know what it feels like. Don’t ever boo these men.
“Dammit, they’re trying.”
The rest of Howard’s speech featured all the typical things, especially appreciation for the folks who helped him on the way up. He saluted former general manager Ed Wade, club executive Bill Giles and Jerry Lafferty, the scout who pushed for the Phils to select him in the fifth round of the 2001 draft out of Missouri State University. He thanked former club president David Montgomery, minor-league manager Roly deArmas, hitting coach Milt Thompson and Charlie Manuel, who was his manager when he debuted in the majors and when he became a National League MVP and World Series champion.
“To my guy, Big Chuck,” Howard said. “He always found a way to pick you up. If you had a bad game, he’d come through the clubhouse, pat you on the back with those heavy hands and say, ‘It’s all right, son. Get ‘em tomorrow.'”
Before asking the fans to refrain from booing the current Phillies, Howard conceded that sometimes a little bit of that Philadelphia tough love can help a player.
“You hear that Philly fans are tough and they’ll boo you,” Howard said. “But they won't boo you if you do what you’re supposed to do. That was one of the motivating factors for me, Chase (Utley), Jimmy (Rollins), Shane (Victorino), Jayson Werth, everybody who put on that uniform and came out night after night. You helped carry us and lift us all those seasons that we had and all that success we had, so for me to have a day like this is truly humbling.”
Howard was the third core member of the Phillies' 2007-2011 championship run to be honored in recent weeks with a retirement ceremony. Rollins and Utley preceded him.
Howard received several nice ovations as a video tribute to him played on PhanaVision.
He also received a video message from a current big-leaguer who grew up in South Jersey idolizing Howard.
“It was a thrill growing up and watching you play,” Mike Trout told Howard.
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