Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is not a regular presence on the field during batting practice, but he did descend from the executive level at Citizens Bank Park to greet New York Mets bench coach Gary Disarcina, a former coworker in the Los Angeles Angels organization, before Friday night’s game.
Klentak also got a chance to chat with the Mets’ first base coach — none other than Ruben Amaro Jr., the man who preceded Klentak as Phillies GM.
“It was nice,” Amaro said Saturday. “I’ve talked to him once or twice since I moved on. I remember texting him when he got the job. I congratulated him and wished him the best of luck. He’s been in front offices with Anaheim and Baltimore, he was in the Commissioner’s office, so we’ve talked over the years.”
During their conversation around the batting cage, Amaro complimented Klentak on the Phillies’ strong start.
“I said, ‘It seems like things are going pretty good,’ and Matt said, ‘A lot of it is because of you,’” Amaro related.
The Phillies embarked on a teardown and rebuild in the fall of 2014 and Amaro was let go in September 2015. He did not leave the cupboard bare. In fact, eight of the players who were supposed to start Saturday night — including starting pitcher Zach Eflin and Odubel Herrera, the majors’ leading hitter — entered the organization as a draft pick, an international signing, a Rule 5 draft pick or a trade pick-up during Amaro’s time as GM. Klentak has acknowledged this fact before. To do it directly to his predecessor “was a very nice thing to say,” Amaro said.
Amaro also had a “nice chat” with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler during the pregame exchange of lineup cards Friday.
“I said, ‘How you doing?’ and he said, ‘Well, after that first week … it was a little bit of a rough first week, but after that, it’s been OK,’” Amaro said. “I told him, ‘Hey, just like any other place, and maybe more so than others, if you guys keep playing well the fans will really appreciate it and things will turn around.
“I told him, and this was actually something Matt and I talked about, too, the fans will start coming out more regularly. I mentioned that the Sixers and Flyers were over so the focus will be on the Phillies and the fans are going to see it’s a pretty darn good product and they’ll appreciate it and come out.”
This is Amaro’s second time back to Citizens Bank Park since his firing. He came in with the Boston Red Sox as their first base coach last season. This time, he said, everything feels a little more comfortable.
“Time heals a lot of stuff,” he said. “And the fans have been great. I get some boos, but I really don’t take a lot of heat. I flipped someone a ball (Friday night) and someone said, ‘You still love us, Ruben, and we love you, too.’ It was nice.
“During BP, I look around the stadium and I get nostalgic. Yeah, I really do. Actually, it felt really neat emotionally on Friday because I consider this home for me. I know I work for a different company and ballclub and I worked for a different ballclub last year, and I’m here trying to beat the Phillies, but I still consider Philadelphia home. That will never change.
“And this ballpark will always be special to me. I remember looking out on the field that first year (2004) when we came back from Clearwater and seeing that grass on the field and thinking, ‘Holy Smokes, this is so cool. Look at the grass. This is our ballpark now.’ That was a moment, a big moment.
“So this place will always be special.”
Amaro has often said he wished he could have stayed around to see the rebuild through. Instead, Klentak gets to see it through. He has made changes along the way, but much of Amaro’s foundation remains. In fact, Eflin, who was scheduled to pitch before Saturday night’s game was rained out, came in the first trade Amaro made after the team embarked on its rebuild.