Juan Samuel Remains a Philadelphia Favorite

Juan Samuel played hard enough and well enough to earn a place in the hearts of Phillies fans. Now, six years after he retired, Samuel returns to Philadelphia as the third base coach for the Detroit Tigers. With the Phillies emphasis on bringing back their former stars, this is a guy they should take a look at should the situation arise.

As the Phillies moved toward their first World Series Championship in 1980, the Phillies made a small move that would turn out to help them down the road. They signed Juan Samuel as an amateur free agent.

As the Phillies were moving toward another appearance in the World Series in 1983, Juan Samuel made his season debut. In 18 games, Samuel hit .277 with two homeruns for the Phillies. Samuel was even a member of the Phillies post-season team, although he got just one post-season at bat with no success.

In 1984, at age 23, Samuel took over as the Phillies second baseman, taking over for Joe Morgan. Samuel's career took off from there. By the time the Phillies dealt Samuel to the Mets in 1989, he had hit 100 homeruns, driven in 413 and was a career .263 hitter. The numbers don't tell the whole Juan Samuel story. Samuel loved to play baseball. His enthusiasm and desire to win was contagious. He was the kind of hard-nosed player that fans in Philadelphia love to watch and love to cheer for.

Samuel's career went from the Phillies, to the Mets, to the Dodgers, to the Royals, to the Reds, to the Tigers, back to the Royals and finally to the Blue Jays. Not every team saw in Samuel what the Phillies saw. Then again, Samuel wasn't quite the player that he was in Philadelphia. After leaving Philadelphia, Samuel hit .255 with 61 homeruns and 290 RBI.

If you want to find a current Phillies player that fits the mold of Juan Samuel, the comparison to Placido Polanco isn't far off. Both players do the little things that help teams win ballgames. Both players put their heart and soul into the game. Both are solid, but not necessarily the kind of player that you figure to see on All-Star teams or being the type of player that teams look to build around. That was part of the reason why Samuel was moved from town to town after leaving Philadelphia. He was always good, but always expendable.

The last time that Juan Samuel came to Philadelphia as a player was in 1997. He spent part of a day at a downtown mall and was surprised that many people still recognized him and asked for an autograph. Eventually, fans had turned Sammy's shopping trip into an event and he had to leave because it got a little too out of hand. Samuel is one of those personalities that Philadelphia adopted as its own and they will always remember.

Samuel's last trip to Philadelphia was for the final game at Veterans Stadium. It was a moment that he didn't want to miss. After all, the old place was where his major league career started. It was where he spent the best parts of his career. This season, Samuel was also remembered in Reading, where he played AA ball. The Reading Phillies inducted Samuel into their Hall of Fame. While his coaching duties kept him from coming to town personally, Samuel was there in spirit and on video. Samuel accepted his induction via a video that he made to be played at the ceremonies. Philadelphia and all that goes with it, is still very much a part of Juan Samuel.

After his playing days were over, Samuel moved gracefully into his next career as a coach. Now, he serves as third base coach for the Detroit Tigers and has gained the respect of Tigers players. Last season, as the Tigers season fell apart quickly, Samuel was a glue that helped to keep the team from completely falling apart.

What's down the road for Samuel? It wouldn't be out of the question for him to get some consideration for a major league manager's job at some point. For now, the 43 year old Samuel is happy doing what he is doing. It's actually not much different from the role that he played as a player. Once again, Samuel is not the guy that teammates look to to carry the team. He is the guy somewhat in the background, who helps make the team better. He is the guy that the players look to for advice and look for to make them better. That's what Juan Samuel does. He makes the others around him better. If the Phillies ever have the opportunity to once again make Samuel a part of the organization, it wouldn't be a bad move for them to make.

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