Phillies Promote Morandini
By Matt Veasey
The Philadelphia Phillies rounded out their big league coaching staff today, announcing the promotion of minor league coach and former Phils’ player Mickey Morandini to become the new 1st base coach.
Morandini takes over the job at 1st base from a fellow former Phillies’ 2nd baseman, Juan Samuel, who will slide across the diamond and take over responsibilities as the new 3rd base coach.
Those two will be part of manager Pete Mackanin‘s big league coaching staff, which also includes bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, hitting coach Steve Henderson, catching coach John McLaren, and bullpen coach Rick Kranitz.
The 49-year old Morandini had spent the last five years coaching in the minors. He served as the manager at Low-A Williamsport before managing at High-A Lakewood for two years in the 2012-13 seasons. Over the last two seasons, Morandini served on the coaching staffs at first AA Reading and then at AAA Lehigh Valley.
Morandini is a Pennsylvania native, born in Kittanning, about 44 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The Phillies 5th round selection in the 1988 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Indiana, he rose quickly through the club’s minor league organization.
Taking over as the Phillies’ starting 2nd baseman in the big leagues upon making his Major League debut in September of 1990, Morandini would hold that job for the better part of eight seasons.
In late September of 1992, Morandini turned the first unassisted triple play in the Major Leagues in 24 years, and the first ever in the history of Philadelphia professional baseball, against the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.
The following season of 1993, he was the lefthanded-hitting and defensive-minded part of an effective platoon at the Keystone position, sharing it with the more offensive-oriented and right-handed Mariano Duncan. The two helped those ’93 Phillies win the NL pennant and advance to the World Series.
In December of 1997, the Phils dealt him to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for center fielder Doug Glanville. After spending two season as the Cubs’ starter at 2nd, Morandini signed with the Montreal Expos as a free agent in January of 2000, but never made it out of spring training.
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At the end of March 2000, the Phillies purchased his contract from Montreal, and ‘The Mick’ was back for another turn as the Phillies’ 2nd baseman. Just after the trade deadline that year, the Phils’ shipped him off again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Rob Ducey. He went 1-22 over that season’s final 10 days with the Jays’ to wrap up his big league playing career.
Morandini was a 1995 National League All-Star with the Phillies, and received NL MVP votes for his performance with the Cubs in 1998. In the 1993 NLCS vs Atlanta, his big 2-out, 2-run triple off Braves’ future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux busted the clinching Game Six open at Veteran’s Stadium, stretching a 4-1 Phillies lead out to 6-1 in a game they would win by 6-3 to advance to the World Series.
After his playing career was over, Morandini returned to his collegiate stomping grounds, settling in Chesterton, Indiana where he became the head baseball coach at Valparaiso High School, a position that he held until the Phillies hired him for the Williamsport managerial position in 2011.
While known far more as a strong glove man and never a big bat, Morandini did find success against some of the game’s toughest pitchers. In fact, against the three who were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz, he batted a collective .352 in over 100 plate appearances.
“There’s just certain pitchers you pick up the ball well against and certain pitchers you don’t,” Morandini said in an interview with Tyler Kepner for the New York Times back in January. “I can name a handful of pitchers who threw probably 75 or 80 miles an hour, and I couldn’t sniff them.” According to Kepner, Morandini always felt he could handle fastballs. “It was a gift, I guess,” Morandini said. “A lot of repetition, a lot of work.”
Come spring training, that repetition and work will be put in not only as the new man coaching at 1st base, but also in coaching the Phillies’ baserunners. The team finished 12th in steals, 8th in stolen base percentage, in MLB this past season. It will be Morandini’s job to help keep that level of aggressiveness and success up, and perhaps increase it as a weapon for the team moving forward.