Howard relishes in ‘amazing’ sendoff
PHILADELPHIA >> The Phillies have had Hall of Fame players, world champions, record-setters and fan favorites.
What they have not had is a proper modern-era chance to give any of them a timely, on-field goodbye.
That changed Sunday when Ryan Howard, the franchise single-season home-run record holder, was given a day of tribute, standing ovations and respect.
The last member of the 2008 world championship team still with the club, Howard was the only one able to publicly thank, and be thanked by, the fans. The rest were either traded in the offseason or while on the road.
A unique day for unique Phillies star ...
“I saw the other guys, from Shane (Victorino) to Jayson Werth to Chase (Utley) to Jimmy (Rollins) and Cole (Hamels) going off to other places,” Howard said. “But this was cool. These types of things come to an end, and those guys in the clubhouse now can start their own legacy. They don’t have to be under that umbrella of people talking about 2008. They can create their own path.”
Howard was treated to a a pregame video tribute, a day’s worth of standing ovations from a crowd of 36,935 and a spot in the left-field seats. There, a plaque will be laid, pinpointing the place where his franchise-record 58th home run landed in 2006.
“It’s amazing,” Howard said. “It’s amazing. The appreciation from the organization and the fans you can’t ask for it. When I came here, I was trying to go out here and just do a job and play baseball and do it to the best of my ability.
“To go out today and be recognized for it in the way it was recognized will be with me forever.”
Howard would go 0-for-4 in the Phillies’ 5-2 triumph over the New York Mets. He took the field in the ninth inning, only to be replaced by Tommy Joseph, allowing for one final ovation.
He almost certainly will receive a contracted $10 million buyout, removing the Phillies from the obligation to pay him $23 million next season. When that happens, he will officially have completed his Phillies career with a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP trophy, a world championship and 382 home runs, 67th most in baseball history.
“The hardest part for me today was making sure I didn’t mess that up and got him out at the right time,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “I always figured I could take him out in the ninth. It worked out well. Plus, we won the game.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet day. But I’m glad he got to feel that affection from the fans.”
*** As the Phillies celebrated Howard’s past Sunday, they had one source of encouragement for the future in Jerad Eickhoff. The righthander struck out eight and walked one in six innings.
Eickhoff, 26, threw 197.1 innings, went 11-14, had a 3.65 ERA and struck out 167 hitters. He joined Roy Halladay, Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and Curt Schilling as the only Phillies’ pitchers to have an ERA under 3.75 while making at least 33 starts in the last 20 seasons.
“I was just very fortunate to stay healthy,” Eickhoff said. “This is my job. You get paid a lot to do it and I take a great pride in that. It’s a great responsibility. You have to do it 100 percent and that’s what I have tried to do and will continue to do.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve done everything that I could do before every start to be prepared. So I am just very, very lucky and fortunate to be a part of this.”
*** NOTES >> Freddy Galvis, who has been resting a tight hamstring, did not start Sunday but pinch-hit in the ninth for Joely Rodriguez. … Maikel Franco had four hits, tying a career high. … The Phillies finished at 71-91, an eightgame improvement over 2015.
Phillies fans hold up signs that read “Thank You Ryan” as first baseman Ryan Howard receives his final ovation, replaced before the start of the ninth inning Sunday. The 5-2 win over the Mets served as a day-long celebration of Howard’s 12 years of service in Philadelphia.