In years gone by, the Phillies would push North out of spring training towards Citizens Bank Park. Armed with a few AAAA-veterans who will eventually be IronPigs, the Phillies would “preview” their team in front of 40,000-some fans. They’d invite in a nearby cellar-dweller like Pittsburgh and throw them a share of the gate, all the while selling regular season games 82 and 83 in their home schedule.
But those days are gone. 40,000 fans don’t want to see this Phillies team play regular-season ball, let alone practice games in the cold, early days of April or late-March. Pittsburgh is a playoff team who doesn’t need to beg for crumbs from the Phillies–they can sell their own pre-season games or use the time to support their AAA team in the big city of Indianapolis. So whatever will the Phillies do?
It’s no secret the Phils are in the midst of a re-build. They’ve changed managers and GMs and have traded away veterans and fan-favorites. They’ve done the best that they could with their high draft picks. However, games still need to be played in 2016. Innings need to be pitched and batters need to step up to the plate. And, just like here in the Minor Leagues, they’re going to have to fill those seats. Let’s check with the marketing department…
We’ve got our first taste already. It appears the Phillies will not be shy about marketing their young talent. Between the draft and the trade returns, the Phillies’ farm system is now stocked with talent and prospects. Certainly, not every prospect pans out, but if the talent is there, it’s up to the development department to oversee the assets. The marketing department will take advantage the best they can in the interim.
As the Phillies released their spring training schedule, we discovered the first of the marketing department’s plans: They will hold their own “Futures Games”–or “Phuture Phillies” Games–at the end of spring training this season.
As the Phillies wind things up in Clearwater following a split squad session with the Yankees on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, they’ll head North–but instead of Philly they’ll all head for Baseballtown. Reading will host the first “Futures” game on Thursday, March 31 at 6:05PM. The Orioles will visit Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, April 1, and then an encore “Futures” presentation will take place in the big park on Sunday afternoon, April 2.
More details on the Reading “Futures” game:
Gates will open at 3:00PM in Baseballtown, in advance of the 6:05PM first pitch. Tickets are already on sale to Season Ticket Holders for $11.00 each (Blue, Yellow, and Green Boxes). Season Ticket Holders can purchase their own seats, as well as extras as needed, at this price until December 11. After that date, tickets will be $17 each for everyone, and at some point available to the general public.
Will they ever do this in Allentown? Will they ever do it again, at all?
I don’t know. Certainly, they’ll watch to see the response this season, and look at things next Winter. It is an anniversary year for Reading, so I could certainly see them waiting until the 10-year anniversary of the IronPigs in 2018. By that time, though, there might be more prospects with the Phillies than in the farm system.
(Another quick note: STH for the Fightins can also purchase ‘222 Showcase’ tickets for $5 each starting now. That game, also in Reading, will be on Tuesday April 5, as per usual. First pitch is set for 6:35PM)
What might the rosters look like on 3/31? It can’t be said for sure, of course. Lots of things can happen between now and then–and I’m unsure if they’ll bring players who are destined for Clearwater, North, for just these two cold-weather games. And senior veteran players might beg out of the Reading game. Still, I can speculate–as I’m want to do:
SP: Jerad Eickhoff / Jeremy Hellickson
C: Cameron Rupp
1B: Darin Ruf
2B: Cesar Hernandez / Darnell Sweeney
SS: Freddy Galvis
3B: Maikel Franco
LF: Cody Asche
CF: Odubel Herrera
RF: Aaron Altherr
SP: Zach Eflin / Jake Thompson
C: Jorge Alfaro / Andrew Knapp
1B: Rhys Hoskins / Brock Stassi
2B: Jesumel Valentin / Scott Kingery
SS: JP Crawford
3B: Harold Martinez / Mitch Walding
LF: Aaron Brown / Andrew Pullin
CF: Roman Quinn / Carlos Tocci
RF: Nick Williams / Cornelius Randolph
It should be fun. And how will this all shake out for the IronPigs? Well, we’ll see, of course. The MiLB free agent signings have been underwhelming to this point, but I imagine more will be coming. Plus, we’re expected to have a fair few of those “Futures” come through Allentown, as well. I say “come through” because most will not be with us for long. As we saw last season with Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, the Phillies will want to get those guys to the big park as soon as they’re ready, so that they can market them there. If they stay with us for a while, it most likely means they are not doing well. We’ll look at the potential opening day roster for the IronPigs in the coming weeks–but the roster for the August playoff stretch may look significantly different. And, that’s not necessarily worse. The Phillies left Reading alone during their playoffs last season, so I’m just as hopeful as I am every other year.
More IronPigs later,
Cover photo by Cheryl Pursell