For Love of the Game was the theme on Wednesday night in Clearwater, Fla. as the Florida State Seminoles took the field with the Philadelphia Phillies in an exhibition contest at Bright House Networks Field, the home of the Phillies spring training and their Class A affiliate the Clearwater Threshers. Players from both teams exchanged hand shakes before and after the game, enjoying the fun and excitement that the night had to offer. Although the Phillies won the game 12-4, it was the experience of playing with major leaguers that the Seminole players will remember forever.
"It was a lot fun tonight," said coach Mike Martin. "But the nice thing about tonight was that we played professionally. There was no messing around. Everyone was ready to go."
The Seminoles enjoyed a fun filled day in Clearwater where they were given a tour of the Phillies' clubhouse as well as a chance to sit down and chat with the big leaguers. They also got the opportunity to watch the Phillies take batting practice from the field seeing the likes of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell knock a few out of the park.
"I had a blast," said first baseman Brandon Reichert. "It was great getting the chance to play against those guys. This might be the only time I will be smiling after a loss this season. They were real nice to us before the game; I got to talk to a lot of them on first base, which was so cool. They were really nice and very good to us. It was an awesome experience."
Philadelphia featured what looked to be its opening day lineup on Wednesday evening with the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell and Aaron Rowand starting against the Seminoles. Kyle Drabeck, the Phillies' number one pick in 2006, got the start on the mound.
"Tonight was fun," said reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard. "It was definitely cool for them; you could see it in the expressions on their faces. They were hanging around the batting cages during pre-game, taking it all in. I really enjoyed tonight."
It didn't take long for Florida State to get on the scoreboard as Tony Thomas, Jr. led off the game with a solo shot to left field off Drabek. Thomas deposited the 1-1 offering from Drabek into Phillies' bullpen for an early 1-0 lead.
"It was awesome," stated Thomas. "It was a great feeling going out there playing against a big league team and hitting a home run. It was an experience I will never forget. This will be something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Drabek has some good stuff. He was well worth their first round pick. I went out there and had fun. I just wanted to go out and make contact with the ball. Once I made contact with that pitch, I knew it was going. It was a great feeling."
"Tony definitely impressed some people tonight," stated coach Martin. "He's always been a guy that has been impressive defensively, but his offense has obviously been great this year."
The Phillies struck back in their bottom half of the inning scoring four runs on two hits to take the lead for good. Second baseman Chase Utley made the Seminole lead short lived smacking a three-run homer to center field driving in Rollins and Steve Victorino. Howard drew a walk and came around to score on an RBI double down the left field line by Pat Burrell.
Dennis Guinn started the second with a walk and moved to third on a double to right by Jason Stidham. Designated hitter Ruairi O'Connor drove in Guinn from third with an RBI groundout for the Seminoles second run of the game.
Mark Hallberg made the scored 4-3 in the third as he scored on an RBI double by Buster Posey. Hallberg led of the inning with a single to right and came around to score as Posey drilled a shot to deep center scoring Hallberg from first.
The Seminoles would plate one more run in the fifth as Jack Rye drove in Hallberg on a fielder's choice groundout.
"I can see they are a pretty good team," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "They hit the ball well tonight."
Bryan Henry got a plate appearance, pinch hitting in the eighth and hitting a single to left.
"That's what it's all about," said Henry about his plate appearance. "That's what makes baseball so much fun, just getting the chance to be out there with some big league players and seeing the atmosphere they get to play in was a blast."
Florida State threw eight different pitchers on Wednesday night as Michael Hyde got the start and was followed by, in order, Brian Chambers, Travis Burge, Jimmy Marshall, Trent Jarvis, Casey Whitmer, Matt Fairel and Danny Rosen. All eight pitchers got to throw an inning.
"This was a really special experience; something that we will take with us forever," stated Henry. "If anything, maybe this will give us confidence for the rest of the season. We played real well and hung in there with them. We had some good at-bats. It will be something that we take with us for the rest of our lives."
Florida State will return home as they host Siena for a three-game set beginning Friday, March 2 at Dick Howser Stadium. First pitch for game one on Friday is slated for 6:00 pm. Senior right hander Bryan Henry is schedule to take the mound in game one. Fans can follow all the action over the Internet. Gametracker will be available for the contest along with live radio broadcast courtesy of 1270 the TEAM.
Phillies down Seminoles 12-4 in exhibition
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