(Originally published in the March 1996 issue of Philadelphia magazine.)
The first game is still months away, and the chain-link fence that separates the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring home from the surrounding pawnshops and junkyards and trailer parks is in desperate need of repair. Though the team’s first annual January mini-camp doesn’t open for 24 hours, coaches and players park, brace against the brisk Florida chill, and straggle into the clubhouse. It’s been three months since they’ve seen each other, three months since anyone’s had a reason to set an alarm clock.
The coaches gather in a small, windowless locker room tucked under the rightfield stands of Clearwater’s Jack Russell Memorial Stadium. It has cinder-block walls, a drop ceiling, scant ventilation but just enough space for two rows of lockers and a boardroom-size folding table. As usual, manager Jim Fregosi sits at the head. The table is empty except for his elbows, his Kools and his lighter. Starting tomorrow, he will see what kind of shape his players are in and give them a chance to get to know each other (only ten remain from the team that played in the World Series two years ago). For now, someone throws a videotape into a VCR, and suddenly Fregosi comes face-to-face with the almost perfect season of 1993. On a Samsung TV bolted to a wall, he has a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Five against the Braves-but Mitch Williams is stretching in the bullpen.
“Is he done now?” Glenn Brummer, a minor-league coach, asks about the Wild Thing’s current career.
“He was done then,” says Fregosi.
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