The temperature on the field was well into the 90s as the Phillies took batting practice at Citizens Bank Park before Monday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In other words …
“Hittin’ season,” Charlie Manuel said. “This is my weather. I probably should be here.”
And Manuel was there, standing behind the batting cage — in uniform — taking it all in, talking hitting, offering pointers.
Manuel scouts amateur players leading up to the draft so he has been in town all month and will stay through Thursday’s annual Phillies Phestival, which benefits the Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association. Hitting coach John Mallee asked the beloved former skipper to put on a uniform and come down on the field to watch batting practice. The two had previously built a rapport during spring training.
Manuel is still a fixture around the batting cage in spring training, but this was the first time he’d been in uniform around the cage at Citizens Bank Park since he was fired as Phillies skipper on Aug. 16, 2013. Actually, Manuel never changed into his uniform that day. He got the news from then general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., appeared briefly at a news conference then grabbed his Wawa bag and headed home. So Monday was the first time he’d been in uniform at CBP since Aug. 8, 2013. The Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs, 12-1, that day.
Manuel wasn’t the only extra set of eyes around the batting cage on Monday. Andy Tracy, the team’s minor-league hitting coordinator, is also in town. Manager Gabe Kapler brings in members of the player-development staff periodically. Kapler stresses inclusion top to bottom. Longtime Phillies observers will recall that former GM Ed Wade used to employ a similar program.
Manuel loved his time around the batting cage.
“I got a good sweat going,” he said. “I feel good. It’s a good feeling, unreal really. We had some guys in BP really putting on a show. (Nick) Williams, (Jorge) Alfaro, (Aaron) Altherr, (Carlos) Santana — they were launching ‘em. Hopefully it carries over into the game.”
Well, the Phillies scored four runs in the first inning, three on a homer by Odubel Herrera.