By RYAN LAWRENCE
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Cole Hamels was in the middle of a TV interview in the area between the left field foul line and the tunnel to the team’s clubhouse when he poked his head back toward the action on the diamond.
Hamels wasn’t unlike the 9,833 people who paid a ticket to Tuesday’s Phillies-Tigers game at Bright House Field. He wanted to see if wunderkind Domonic Brown
could pull off baseball’s version of a natural hat trick.
“I was like, man, if he hits another one, I don’t know what we would have done,” Hamels said of Brown, who had homered in each of his first two at-bats. “We probably would have moved his locker over here.”
Instead, Brown, the organization’s top prospect who had a day to remember against the Tigers, saw his locker move from beyond the back corner of the major league clubhouse all the way to the minor league complex at the expansive Carpenter Complex. Brown, who went 3-for-3 with two home runs, including one off Detroit ace Justin Verlander, was re-assigned to minor league camp after the game.
“He hit his way right out of here,” Charlie Manuel said with a smile.
“I thought I was going down last week, so this all is a plus for me,” Brown said.
Brown’s coming-out-party before his going-away-stroll to minor league camp capped an impressive inaugural trip to big league camp. The 22-year old, rated the No. 15 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, hit .417 (10-for-24) with two home runs and eight RBIs while also playing strong in right field in a team-high 11 games.
“The kid has tremendous eye-hand coordination,” Manuel said. “He’s going to be a good player. He’s good right now. He’s going to get better.”
The Phillies’ decision to hold onto Brown during the trade talks for Roy Halladay might pay off if he continues to climb the organizational ladder and possibly replaces Jayson Werth, a pending free agent, in the outfield next spring. Brown will likely start the 2010 season at Double-A Reading.
“It’s just been great,” Brown said of his first big league camp. “All of these guys brought me under their wing. It’s a major confidence booster for myself, and it also taught me the hard-work part of what goes on here, too. … I’m just trying to be myself and let my tools and ability take care of the rest.”
Brown’s big day reminded at least two Phillies of their own, spring training star turns.Cole Hamels
’ has been well-documented (it’s even in the media guide). Back in the spring of 2004, as a 20-year-old, non-roster player, Hamels threw two shutout innings against the New York Yankees that was capped with a 1-2-3 second inning where Hamels struck out Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Clark.
“You so desperately want to do well up here,” Hamels said. “It’s kind of that macho-ness that you have because you don’t belong but you want to feel like you belong, and when you do something as dramatic as striking out three guys or hitting two home runs, guys start to notice, and you start to feel part of the group.”Ryan Howard
, whose first home run of the spring, a two-run shot off Verlander, was overshadowed by Brown’s blasts, recalled a ‘B’ game he played in as a 23-year-old fresh off a season at Low-A Lakewood. He homered off Andy Pettitte.
“I got Andy Pettitte. I got him (opposite field),” Howard said. “He was coming down (for a ‘B’ game) and I went up (for the day) and I remember it was a cutter away, the first pitch.
“Facing someone who is established in the big leagues, I think it kind of tells you where you’re at.”
Brown’s next big swings will come on one of the four fields 150-some minor leaguers are sharing at the Carpenter Complex. But he won’t soon forget the cuts he took Tuesday against the Tigers.
The first home run was the most memorable, not only that it came off a Cy Young candidate like Verlander, but that it was a few bounces away from landing on Route 19. Brown admitted he admired it for “a split second.” Verlander noticed.
“I thought if I got another at-bat, he might have hit me,” Brown said.
“He stared me down a little bit, but that’s no biggie. I’ll just be on first base.”
Brown didn’t get hit by Coke, either. Instead, he lifted a long, higher-flying ball that barely found its way over the fence in right-center (a fan helped it find its landing place with a hat).
“I actually thought it was a pop-up,” Brown said. “But the wind was blowing out and that kind of helped me.”
Brown’s third at-bat, the one that even Hamels had to sneak out of a middle of an interview to watch, didn’t end in a home run. With the bases loaded and two outs, he legged out an infield single to shortstop and knocked in his fourth run in three trips to the plate.
In his final at-bat, Brown walked. At the end of the game, he walked away knowing he can play with the big boys.
“He has gone about it the right way, he’s come up and he’s learning and that’s the biggest thing – he’s enjoying himself but he’s learning as he’s gone along,” Howard said. “He’s just about the total package.”
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