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Hagerstown native Billmeyer to pitch to Utley in All-Star Home Run Derby tonight

July 14, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN - Mick Billmeyer will be spending the early part of next week in New York taking in an off-Broadway show.

While he's there, he hopes to have the chance to hang around and soak in the history and memories of the final production.

Billmeyer, a Hagerstown native and the bullpen coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, will pitch to Chase Utley in Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Billmeyer is hoping for the chance to hang around Tuesday to watch the last Major League All-Star Game to be played in "The House That Ruth Built."

"This has nothing to do with me," Billmeyer said. "It's all about Chase. But it will be my last time to be in Yankee Stadium. I'd love to be there for the last time and stay for the game to take it all in."

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Like most baseball players, Billmeyer is a bit of historian when it comes to the roots of the game. So, the chance to miss a couple of days off and a couple of rounds of golf might be worth it just for the experience.

"Utley came up and asked, 'What are you going to do during the break?'" Billmeyer said. "I said I was going to head home and play a couple of rounds of golf. Then he asked me if I would come and be his pitcher for the home-run derby."

Billmeyer pitched to Jim Thome in the 2004 home-run derby in Houston, an event won by Miguel Tejada, the Orioles' shortstop at the time.

"Utley isn't a home-run guy," Billmeyer said. "He is constantly working on his fundamentals in batting practice and is always hitting the ball off the tee to keep working. He swings through the ball, and if he pulls it during a game, it usually is by accident.

"I was nervous the first time I did it, but when Thome went out and hit eight or nine shots during the warm-up, I calmed down. I realized there is no pressure on me. The cameras are all on him. For Utley, I just have to put it in there at a consistent speed and put it in the middle so he can do something with it."

Utley, who was leading the majors in home runs until he was surpassed by teammate Ryan Howard this week, will be joined in the contest by Cleveland's Grady Sizemore, Florida's Dan Uggla, Houston's Lance Berkman, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, Texas' Josh Hamilton, Minnesota's Jason Morneau and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.

"(Utley) likes the ball up and in the middle so he can work it," Billmeyer said. "He likes to work the ball through the strike zone. If he can get some backspin on the ball and pull it, he could have some success with the short porch out there in right field."

After the derby, Billmeyer said he hopes to get the opportunity to stay on and work the game for the National League. He talked with Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, a friend who will be the National League manager, about the chance of working in the bullpen. Billmeyer generally catches the warm-ups of Brad Lidge, the Phillies closer who also has been selected for the game.

"Clint said he would ask and find out," Billmeyer said. "He said that there are so many rules and he had to check it out."

Billmeyer spent his baseball career entirely in the minor leagues, playing in the Baltimore, Texas and California organizations before catching on with the Angels as a coordinator in 1994. He has been with the Phillies since 2000, and became the catching instructor and bullpen coach for Philadelphia in 2004.

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