Hard work, focus and commitment. Those things 2012 Seminole Warhawk grad Brett Phillips said would help achieve his ultimate dream: playing major league baseball.
That dream came true on June 5 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when Phillips started for the Milwaukee Brewers against the San Francisco Giants.
For Phillips, the wait was worth it and looking back at that night, it still seems like a blur.
“It really hasn’t set in yet,” he said. “There’s a bunch of emotions I went through during that first week after being called up. Mostly excited. But also, blessed and thankful.”
Before he was called up, Phillips, in his fifth season in the minor leagues, started the 2017 season playing for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. He became one of their standout prospects with a tallied 44 RBIs, 12 homeruns and .290 batting average.
On June 4, five days after his 23rd birthday, Phillips had a meeting with Rick Sweet, the manager of the Sky Sox, following a game against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
“He came up to me and said that you are going to the big leagues. After that, I kind of didn’t hear anything else. The entire time I was trying to process, comprehend and understand what just happened.”
Of course, there were many people to call home and tell the good news. The first person he called was his mom.
“I said, ‘Mom, we’re going to the big leagues.’ There was a lot of screaming and cheering on the other end. She was super excited for me.”
The following day his mother, Jodi Phillips-Foushee, his father, Brett James Phillips, and his stepfather, David Foushee, flew to Milwaukee. According to Phillips, he couldn’t sleep at all on the plane. His mind was racing and he was running on pure adrenaline.
During the game, wearing number 33, he started eighth in the lineup and played centerfield. When he walked to the batter’s box for his first at-bat, it became a moment he’d never forget.
“It was truly unexplainable. When I looked behind me, it was literally like a standing ovation. I couldn’t even hear my walkout song because it was so loud. Everyone was just going crazy for me.”
Although he struck out his first two times, he shined during the top of the third inning when the Giant’s Denard Span crushed a line drive directly to him. What could’ve been a double, Phillips changed the outcome.
“All that adrenaline helped my throw go straight to Jonathan Villar on second (base) to tag Span out. I kind of impressed myself with that play to be honest.”
His big moment happened in the bottom of the eighth inning. On the 0-2 count, pitcher Jeff Samardzija delivered a high fastball. Phillips smashed a single to center field, giving him his first official major-league hit.
“It was all rewarding, exciting and amazing in that moment. Just to get that first hit out of the way, and have my family there to see it, was just incredible.” He added, “For the past five years of my minor-league career, everyone has shown their support and nothing else but love for me. Even though my talents got me to where I am now, I wouldn’t be where I am today without support from my family, friends and fans.”
His talents shined early in his baseball career when he made the Seminole Warhawks in 2009. Even former Seminole head coach Greg Olsen saw potential from Phillips the moment he saw him at tryouts.
“As a coaching staff, we knew he was going to be special and do good things,” said Olsen. “He’s just a great athlete. There aren’t too many arms like his that can make an impact play from the outfield. Even as a freshman, he had the power potential to produce big hits.”
During his time with the Warhawks, Phillips attained a .354 batting average, 45 RBIs, 85 hits, 75 runs and seven homeruns. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Times as the 2012 Pinellas Player of the Year and was drafted in the sixth round during the 2012 MLB draft to the Houston Astros.
Phillips stayed with the Astros organization until July 2015 when he was part of a trade deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. The trade allowed the Astros to acquire outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers. It proved to be a beneficial move as he found a new home with a growing fan base.
After making his MLB debut, he played five games, with 10 at-bats and two hits. Although Phillips was optioned back to Triple-A with the Sky Sox, he could move back into the Brewers starting lineup at any point in the regular season.
“It’s about going out there every day, playing hard and doing everything I can do to help the Brewers win games,” said Phillips. “At this level, that’s what it’s all about.”