Phillies give Billmeyer his World Series dream

October 19, 2008|By Bob Parasiliti

No matter what happens in the next two weeks, the one thing Mick Billmeyer will always remember is how to write his name.

That's helpful, but a small price to pay, especially since that autograph will forever verify that the Hagerstown native fulfilled one of the ultimate dreams of his baseball career.

Billmeyer spent most of Friday putting his John Hancock on 60 dozen baseballs. It's a perk, a job and a ritual all rolled into one as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies as they prepare to participate in the World Series for the first time since 1993.

"We sat down and tried to get that all out of the way early," said Billmeyer, Philadelphia's bullpen coach, of the whole experience. "Major League Baseball and the Phillies wanted them to pass out and we got them out of the way."


More important things are ahead as Philadelphia prepares to travel to Boston or Tampa Bay to begin the Fall Classic on Wednesday. It is the place where fate and faith merge for Billmeyer, who will get the chance to live out his boyhood fantasy in a completely different role than he had imagined.

For Billmeyer, becoming a World Series champion would be much different -- and maybe more fulfilling -- than he ever would allow himself to dream.

The North Hagerstown graduate was a career minor leaguer, catching for the Baltimore, Texas and California/Anaheim organizations from 1985-92 before becoming a coach. The Orioles' second-round pick out of North Carolina State in the 1985 amateur draft played for the Hagerstown Suns twice as a Single-A and Double-A player as part of that journey.

He was hired as the bullpen coach for the Angels in 1994 and held the position until he joined the Phillies in 2000.

Billmeyer had some memorable experiences as a player, like catching a rehabilitation start for former Los Angeles Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela, but might have more memories since becoming a coach.

He hit a home run playing as a late-inning replacement in a Hall of Fame Game, and twice was the pitcher for a Phillies player in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game -- Jim Thome in 2004 and Chase Utley this season.

But Billmeyer realizes the World Series experience will trump any of his personal accomplishments.

"I'll never know what this would be like as a player, but I'm enjoying this so much," Billmeyer said. "You work with the players and try to help them get into a position to succeed. You see their struggles and then you see when they get things working. When you see that, you feel great."

Billmeyer may have one of the most important jobs as far as the Phillies and their offense is concerned. He has been the batting practice coach for four players -- Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley -- for the last five years. Howard and Rollins are the last two National League Most Valuable Players and Howard has a chance to keep the honor with the team for a third straight year.

"I thought we would get here pretty soon," Billmeyer said. "All those guys have come through the Phillies system. We just needed to get the hitting to mesh with the pitching."

The patience that comes with coaching has given Billmeyer a whole different perspective of what is about to happen. Now, instead of anticipating things to come, he now realizes the future is now.

"I've become a 'glass half full' guy," Billmeyer said. "What has helped me was listening to (Phillies bench coach) Jimy Williams. I used to always hear, 'Let's go out and win two out of three.' He always says, 'Why don't we just win tonight?' That keeps you thinking in the present."

The new thought process has Billmeyer approaching his coveted first experience in the World Series in a different way.

"After we won, I just stood in the bullpen and watched," Billmeyer said. "When we were closing in, I told the players just to leave their gloves and stuff and I would bring it in. I stood back when they rushed on the field to celebrate. I stood in the bullpen and watched.

"We have had champagne three times this year. I went in and got sprayed with it and then went off on the side and just watched these guys who worked so hard celebrate. Those are the things I will remember."

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