Phillies fans across the area could only dream of conversing with the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. But for former Penn righty Paul Cusick, it became a reality earlier this week.
After being drafted by the Phillies in the 29th round last spring, Cusick has just begun his time in Clearwater, Fla., for the organization’s spring training season — and with that comes the opportunity to receive words of wisdom from the team’s starting aces.
Halladay, Lee and Hamels shared their experiences on a panel for the benefit of the Phillies’ younger pitchers. Halladay, a two time Cy Young Award winner, spoke about his time working his way through the minor league system.
“The biggest thing for [Halladay] is some people are always happy with where they’re at, and even [though] he’s the best pitcher in the game right now, he said he’s just striving to get better everyday and every year,” Cusick said. “It was cool hearing that from someone who’s had so much success.”
Cusick, though, has had some early success of his own in the past few weeks.
Although the minor league schedule is dependent on intra-squad scrimmages, the 2011 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year had his first outing against players in a different uniform. He threw two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league team on Wednesday. So far, Cusick has thrown approximately four total innings, has “gotten a handful of strikeouts” and has yet to walk a batter.
“I’m trying to stay consistent with my fastball, and then being able to throw all of my off-speed pitches for a strike were two things that I wanted to work on during spring training,” he said.
And because of the demanding spring training schedule, Cusick has had plenty of time to perfect his pitches. Every morning, Cusick and his teammates report to the Phillies’ Carpenter Complex at around 6:30 a.m. Both the major and minor league squads utilize these facilities.
“We always see [the Major League players] in the morning,” Cusick said. “It’s been pretty cool being able to share a field with those guys and seeing them work out every day.”
After eating breakfast in the team’s locker room cafeteria, Cusick and the pitchers stretch and complete shoulder workouts until 8 a.m.
Then Cusick meets with the Phillies coaching staff where they work out and discuss throwing motion and mental approaches. His coaches were not contacted because they are still in the evaluating stages of spring training.
After the team’s minor league coordinators discuss big picture goals with the players for half an hour, the minor leaguers practice some baseball fundamentals.
“Pitchers do a lot of fielding practice, pick-offs, bunt defense, a lot of things you don’t have time to practice during the season,” Cusick said.
The players then grab lunch at noon, and then take the field for an intrasquad scrimmage.
Although it’s a grueling day for the players, they are still able to have some fun in their off hours. Cusick, who is currently residing in one of the three hotels the Phillies have set aside for their minor leaguers, says he and his teammates spend their evenings playing cards and video games.
“It’s cool being done work at 3 [p.m.] every day, but you’re in there starting at 6:30 [a.m.], so it’s pretty much a full day and you’re out in the sun all day,” Cusick said.
“It’s a little bit draining, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s not hard getting out of bed every morning to go do that.”