CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies players were welcomed to spring training with an inspirational multi-media presentation and dinner (the menu included creamed spinach) at a Clearwater restaurant on Sunday night.
The welcome event continued Monday morning when Philadelphia’s most sought-after speaker walked into the clubhouse before the team’s first full-squad workout.
Two weeks after winning the Super Bowl and emphatically punctuating the victory parade with the most famous speech in the state of Pennsylvania since Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Eagles center Jason Kelce, already on vacation in the area, popped into camp to fire up the lads with a few words of wisdom.
“Champions have stories to share and they’re effective,” said new manager Gabe Kapler, who jumped at the chance to have Kelce stop by and speak to his team. “They’ve been through the ups and downs, they’ve displayed courageousness, they’ve come together as units, they’ve felt what it feels like to have people count them out and then they’ve proven them wrong.
“Jason’s message was tremendous. I don’t know that there was a No. 1 takeaway. I think there were eight to 10 takeaways and a lot of them have to do with it’s OK to fall down, be fearless, get back up, be bold and do it all over again. He referenced that several times.”
Being bold is the theme of Camp Kap. Before Monday’s workout, players were given red T-shirts emblazoned with the words Be Bold. The letters VAM – Value at the Margins – are on the sleeves. Kapler is stressing how small details can lead to big things in his first camp and bringing in Kelce for a visit was of them. So was Sunday night’s video presentation, produced by team officials Kevin Camiscioli and Dan Stephenson. The video featured victorious and inspirational moments from the Eagles, Flyers and Sixers. There was also some Rocky in there.
“We feel like we're in a partnership with the city, the fans and certainly the teams,” Kapler said. “You saw it today with Jason. He was part of our family.”
Kelce wore a red Phillies shirt, No. 62, of course, and a red Phillies cap. After speaking with the club, he had a picture taken with lookalike Cam Rupp – “He’s a thick boy and he’s got a good beard,” Kelce said – and took in the spirited two-hour workout.
“The environment was created by players,” Kapler said. “They came out and they gave us everything they had. We have high expectations. We expect you to come prepared. We expect you to come in and bust your ass and to come and do it the next day and they started off on the right foot.”
After the workout concluded with conditioning drills and yoga for some players, Kapler knelt in the outfield and spoke with three young players, Andrew Pullin, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery. Kapler spoke to them about balancing hard work with recovery. He talked about nutrition and maintaining healthy body fat to help ward off injury. He told them that it’s OK to indulge sometimes.
What are Gabe Kapler’s indulgences?
“An occasional glass of wine, scotch, steaks,” he said. “I really like creamy vegetable stuff. We had some creamed spinach last night. It was incredible.”
By all accounts, Kelce was pretty incredible during his chat with the Phillies.
“Awesome,” said pitcher Mark Leiter, Jr. a Jersey Shore kid and diehard Eagles fan. “He talked about his journey, not being highly recruited, being undersized and now he’s a Super Bowl champion. He has that forever. You have to respect that. It’s something you have to work for.”
Yes, Kelce dropped a couple of F-bombs for emphasis. He was in a locker room, after all. During his speech for the ages on the Art Museum steps two weeks ago, Kelce, filled with adrenaline, emotion and maybe a few adult beverages, dropped a couple memorable F-bombs as he saluted all the underdogs that made the Eagles' championship a reality.
“It was pretty crazy,” Kelce said. “The speech had been building up for a long time and it just came out at that moment. It was stuff that had been brewing for a long time.
"The night before, I couldn’t really sleep. I was just sitting there thinking. They had just told me I was going to talk. I was thinking about what I should say. That’s when I started thinking about all the guys who had overcome things and been counted out and rebounded. It was really from the top down. From there you started to see that parallel to the city of Philadelphia. The city had struggled for this championship for a long time.”
Now, the Eagles have that championship. The Sixers and Flyers are well into their seasons. And the Phillies are just getting into their long grind. Philadelphia’s most sought-after speaker was here to help them kick it off on Monday.