On a Night Honoring the Past, the Phillies Future Shined Brightest


The celebration of career milestones and honoring of former stars, such as Jimmy Rollins on Tuesday night, has provided Phillies fans with temporary blinders to the laughable state the organization had subjected them to over the past few seasons. Electricity that surged through the stands at Citizen’s Bank Park for a stretch had given way to a level of apathy & disgust that the seats at the ballpark opened in 2004 was housing for the first time in their existence. It seemed as if the only thing Phillies fans could show their pride at the ballpark for was to celebrate the accomplishments of those who have since moved on.

After years of resisting the type of change necessary to course-correct the trajectory of the organization towards returning to the World Series, the Phillies front office finally started to chop away at the foundation that brought them their greatest success. Sacrificing the short-term benefits of familiarity, the organization shifted the focus toward their farm system and youth. All of a sudden, after years of wondering if things could get any worse, Phillies fans can start to let the notion of improvement creep back into their heads.

Organization-wide, Tuesday night was a showcase for the contingency responsible for bringing the juice back to Citizen’s Bank Park, even if it might take some time. From those battling Rollins and his Dodgers on South Broad, to the farmhands scattered about the region; the youth that the Phillies are counting on provided a shot in the arm that fans probably forgot the sensation of. There was an all-too-familiar storyline of what was supposed to happen Tuesday night. A group of the franchise’s top young talent decided to flip that script and forge a new narrative, even if just for one lazy Summer evening.

The near-30,000 in attendance at Citizen’s Bank spent the better part of the early portion of the evening reliving the accomplishments of Rollins. With the Phillies properly paying tribute to their former heart-and-soul over the early portion of the contest, fans were able to transport themselves to a world where their team wasn’t 24 games under .500. After Rollins delivered a ground-rule double off Jerome Williams in the 3rd inning, the warm, fuzzy feelings ceded to the pending reality of a departed star once again teeing off on his former team. That would not be the case.

After one of the more bizarre occurrences one will ever see at a ballpark involving Dodgers starter Alex Wood, the fans showered their anger onto the field at the umpires having prevented the go-ahead run in a 1-1 game from scoring. Their angst would be short-lived, though, as Maikel Franco delivered the type of magical Citizen’s Bank Park moment that even Rollins himself had to appreciate to a certain degree.

Bolstering what is turning into one of the more impressive rookie seasons in Phillies history, Franco’s go-ahead grand slam ignited the 28,000-plus. The 22-year-old third baseman from the Dominican Republic received a curtain call for his titanic slam and paved the way for a Phillies win.

It was not before long that the four-run cushion provided by Franco’s blast was in jeopardy. The Dodgers scratched together an eighth-inning rally off Jeanmar Gomez and, poetically, Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate with two outs representing the game’s tying run. With Rollins already delivered a pair of base hits and arguably representing the Dodgers’ greatest threat, Pete Mackanin put the ball in the hands of his 24-year-old closer to secure the result of a game suddenly in the balance.

Ken Giles, living up to his moniker, delivered a 100-mph seed over the inside corner to strike out Rollins and neutralize the threat. Giles would return in the 9th to complete his first four-out save as a closer and secure the Phillies’ 13th win in 16 games since the All-Star break, a mark no other team in the majors can best.

A little over 30 miles away in front of just over 6,500, the Reading Fightins’ took on the Trenton Thunder. Years ago, the presence of Chase Utley in the Reading lineup might serve as the headlining attraction for anyone with allegiances to the Phillies. That was not the case on Tuesday. The two top prospects garnered in the deal for Cole Hamels would be making their Fightins’ debuts after coming over from the Texas organization. Starting pitcher Jake Thompson and outfielder Nick Williams joined their major-league colleagues in providing excitement with what’s to come.

Thompson would pitch seven innings, allowing just one run while scattering six hits. Corey Seidman, who covers the Phillies for CSNPhilly.com, provided some insight on Thompson’s night.

"Thompson had just one shaky inning all night and mostly sped through the Thunder’s order. Thompson showed a fastball that ranged from 91 to 94 mph, a slider and a curveball. Much of the contact made against him was soft.Thompson allowed one run on six hits over seven innings with no walks and one strikeout. Of the 21 outs he recorded, 14 came on the ground and only two made it to the outfield."

Williams, who had apparently driven 21 hours over the weekend from Texas to Pennsylvania following the trade, delivered a pair of hits including a single in his first at bat as the team’s lead-off hitter. Williams also delivered a secondary outfield assist on a putout in the 2nd inning, showcasing his MLB-potential arm. The two helped contribute to Reading’s 7-1 win over the Thunder.

After the victory, the organization’s top prospect J.P. Crawford, who shined in the field Tuesday night more so than with his bat, chimed in on the direction of the organization.

As for Utley, who could join the Phillies later this week, he shared Tuesday’s double-play partner’s enthusiasm for what’s to come.

Looking around the rest of the organization, Jerad Eickhoff (also part of the Hamels deal) threw six innings of one-run ball while racking up seven strikeouts in his Lehigh Valley debut. Aaron Altherr, an outfielder who could join the major league club at some point over the remainder of the 2015 campaign, launched his seventh home run of the season. Altherr may have to find a home with the Phillies in one of the corner outfield spots, because Odubel Herrera looks as if he may have the centerfield spot locked up for the time being. The 23-year-old Rule 5 pick saw his average climb to .283 with an RBI double to open the scoring against the Dodgers.

All in all, Tuesday was a night where being a Phillies fan felt easy and natural again. Not because there was an opportunity to properly say good-bye to one of the organization’s most iconic figures, but because the youth that the front office was once so reluctant to tap into stole the show from Rollins and gave us a reason to think that the electricity may return to Citizen’s Bank Park for good by the time the organization honors another one of its former stars.

Next: Phillies Fans Give Jimmy Rollins Standing Ovation in Return to Citizen's Bank Park

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