Baseball Betsy and I have become big fans of the GCL Phillies. We have traveled far and wide to such GCL outposts as Willie Stargell Field at Pirate City and Al Kaline Field at Tigertown to see them play. With the new sod on the infield, Robin Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex has become the home field for them though as was the case yesterday they play a few games at Brighthouse Field when the Threshers are not playing that night.
Yesterday two interesting story lines of the GCL Phillies took place. One, former GCL Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford deservedly played his first game for the Lakewood BluClaws and in the second game of the doubleheader singled and drove in his first run in the SAL. The second was starting pitcher Tyler Viza picking up his first professional win in giving up a run on three hits in five innings of work as the Phillies defeated the GCL Astros 5-2 to stay one game ahead of the GCL Pirates in the race for the division lead.
Both Crawford and Viza were June draft picks and chosen out of high school but they came from opposite ends of the draft. J.P. was the Phillies first round pick, 16th overall, while Tyler was the 32nd round pick, 961st overall. Yesterday they both proved that they have a bright future. J. P. was leading the GCL in batting average before he was called up and Tyler lowered his ERA to an impressive 1.88 after pitching 24 innings so far this season in the GCL.
It is these kind of prospects that makes the GCL so worth while watching. Last Thursday we watched Roy Halladay in a rehab start against the GCL Pirates. He moved back the scheduled start of young 19 year old Feliberto Sanchez. I joked with Sanchez that he had better stuff than Halladay. Sanchez just laughed at me. He was excited just to chart from behind home plate on Robert’s Field Halladay’s start that day. In Sanchez’s previous start he had pitched a six inning one hitter. Halladay would pitch six innings and give up three runs on six hits. The next day we traveled to Tigertown just to watch Feliberto pitch his best game of the season going five inning, giving up one run and striking out seven to pick up the win over the GCL Tigers.
With the GCL games you never know what you are going to see from inning to inning. From major league plays one inning to mistake prone baseball the next but that why you can not take your eyes off the field because you simply do not know what you might miss. Just last week several games were determined by misjudged line drives that went over the heads of the center fielders. Yesterday we saw a great effort by GCL Phillies catcher Deivi Grullon getting two key hits and blocking balls in the dirt that prevented runs from being scored while the Astors catcher had trouble keeping balls from bouncing off the wall behind home plate at Brighthouse.
As of today the GCL Phillies are one game up on GCL Pirates in the four team race with the Yankees and Blue Jays to win the Northwest division of the Gulf Coast League. The winner will face the unenviable task of facing the team with the best record the GCL Nationals in a one game semi-final knock out playoff. On Saturday I was talking with a pitcher for the GCL Tigers. He was a college guys in his early twenties but had pitched in relief the day before against the Phillies in the Tigertown game. I thought the standings really did not mean much since it was all about development but not to the players. He told me it was a big game for them because they were in the playoff hunt in their division. While the GCL Phillies are made up of mostly teenage high school guys the GCL Tigers are made up of mostly early twenties college guys reflecting the differences in drafting and signing philosophies of the two teams.
The GCL season has only nine more games left. Under the patient hands of manager Roly de Armas, coach Ramon Henderson and pitching coach Steve Schrenk the GCL Phillies have developed from being nine games under .500 early in the season to one game over and fighting for first place in the division. This is what GCL baseball is all about This season we have seen these young guys mature before out eyes. Many of them will get about two weeks off before they return for Fall instructs for another month of development in their never ending quests to make it to the Show one day.