He was only with the Philadelphia Phillies for two seasons, but Eric Bruntlett made a big impact on the franchise.
When the Philadelphia Phillies pried Brad Lidge loose from the Houston Astros and our old pal Ed Wade in a trade on November 7, 2007, hardly anyone gave a thought to the other player who came in the deal, Eric Bruntlett. Utility players with a .250 career average don’t tend to make waves. But Bruntlett would go on to deliver the kind of depth that a championship-ready Phillies team could use.
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By playing all over the diamond during the 2008 season, often as a substitution for the likes of Pat Burrell, Bruntlett played a valuable role in giving breaks to the players who would serve the most critical roles on that World Series-winning team. His “legend” grew even more during that postseason, when he seemed to find himself in the middle of everything.
When Carlos Ruiz’ dribbler down the line won Game 3 of the World Series, it was Bruntlett who scampered home with the winning run after he had led off the inning by reaching base when he was drilled in the leg with a pitch. And if that wasn’t enough, Bruntlett would score what ultimately proved to be the winning run in the Game 5 clincher, pinch running for Burrell, who had just delivered a clutch double in his final at bat as a Phil. Bruntlett remained in the game to play left field, and he got to be a part of the dog pile when Lidge delivered the final out.
Bruntlett’s role in 2009 wasn’t nearly as prominent, as he accumulated only about half as many at bats as he had the previous year. Still, he accounted for one of the most memorable plays in Phillies history on August 23, 2009 when he completed an unassisted triple play to finish a victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field. As part of the crowd of 39,038 in attendance that day, I know that I’ll hold onto that one for a lifetime. It’s essentially the rarest feat there is in baseball, at least one that can be accomplished in a single game.
Eric Bruntlett was part of one more huge Phillies memory, and it came during the 2009 postseason. When Jimmy Rollins ripped the game-winning hit off of Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton to win Game 4 of the NLCS, it was Bruntlett who crossed the plate yet again. He was pinch running once more, this time for Matt Stairs, whom Broxton had walked since he clearly wanted no part of after what had happened the previous October. Bruntlett’s run tied the game, with Carlos Ruiz following shortly thereafter for the victory.
Talk about cramming a lot of moments into a short space of time. Bruntlett would leave the Phillies in free agency after 2009, signing with the Nationals at the end of the calendar year. He spent time with their AAA team, but he didn’t get a big league recall before he was released. The Yankees scooped him up a few weeks later, again assigning him to AAA, where he remained for the rest of the year.
Eric Bruntlett never got another chance in Major League Baseball after 2009, which seems curious, given his experience and the ability he showed to contribute as a depth piece. I’m sure he’s disappointed that he never made it back to the majors, but I also believe that he wouldn’t give back a second of his experiences in Philadelphia. More than just about anyone in recent Philly sports history, Eric Bruntlett maximized his time and talent.