Former Phillies great Mike Schmidt throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the team’s annual Alumni Day spring training game at Spectrum Field on Sunday, March 5, 2017.
CLEARWATER – There’s a reason why baseball teams refer to the return of former players as Alumni Day instead of Old Timers Day, because many of these former greats often look like they could still play.
That was certainly the case last week at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, when the Philadelphia Phillies hosted their annual spring training Alumni Day game, with appearances by “older” legends like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Don Carman and Dave Cash and recent retirees such as Jason Michaels, John Kruk and Pedro Feliz.
Prior to the game on Sunday, March 5, former Phillies greats signed autographs on the concourse and interacted with the fans, while Schmidt, an iconic third baseman and fan favorite who also served as manager of the Clearwater Threshers in 2004, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, albeit from a distance decidedly closer than the regulation mound.
“Alumni Day during Phillies Spring Training is always a special occasion, for both the fans in attendance and the former Philadelphia players and coaches,” said Doug Kemp, Philadelphia Phillies Florida Operations Special Events Manager. “The event is a great opportunity for the Phillies faithful to see in-person alumni like Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt or familiar favorites like broadcasters Larry Andersen and John Kruk. The on-field honoring and fan interaction always make for a memorable day.”
The day was definitely memorable for one young baseball fan.
According to his dad, Don, 7-year-old Ace Evans was attending his first professional game on Alumni Day. And between getting his program autographed, receiving tips from one of the Phillies pitchers, and posing for photos with former Philly outfielder Jason Michaels, Don acknowledged Ace had an awesome first experience at the ballpark.
“This is his first game, and I’d say it’s a nice way to celebrate it,” Don Evans, a Philly native and Lutz resident who coaches his son’s Little League team, said. “My first game was in the 700 level at the Vet, with my dad saying, ‘cover your ears, cover your ears!’”
Evans admitted that as much fun as the game was for his son, he was just as thrilled to be able to see his favorite players from his childhood.
“It was fantastic seeing those legends,” he said, noting he played third base growing up and idolized Schmidt. “I think this game is a great way to tie the new to the old. It makes for a great experience at the ballpark for everybody.”