Howard rel­ishes in ‘amaz­ing’ send­off

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS — MATT SLOCUM

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.

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