According to Phillies manager Joe Girardi, “Our job is to make this world a better place.” He did just that this week, bonding with a special, lifelong fan.
One week from today, Saturday, February 22, the Philadelphia Phillies will play in their Grapefruit League opener opposite the Detroit Tigers.
And, while the new-look team and coaching staff continues to prepare for the 2020 season at the Carpenter Complex, they still make time for fans who make the trip down to Clearwater, Florida.
Among them is Pete Brodzinski: a lifelong Phillies fan, South Jersey resident and brother of new Phillies Bullpen Catcher/Catching Coach, Greg Brodzinski.
After manager Joe Girardi got hired this offseason, it did not take much time for he and Pete, who has Down syndrome, to become friends. Upon meeting this past week, both lit up with a smile, reported NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark, who said Girardi “is a special guy” who “builds relationships,” and is a “family man.”
“Hey, Pete, how are you, my man?” the 2009 World Series-winning manager said to Pete, before inviting him into the clubhouse.
Pete said, “He grabbed me and said, ‘How about you come inside and have a fun time with all the coaches?’ That was a lot of fun for me.”
Girardi told Clark that Pete “wanted to take a little batting practice,” before adding, “We could have had 72 people in camp instead of 71, and that would have been alright.”
The Phillies’ spring roster grew to 71 this week when the team announced that RHP JD Hammer cleared waivers and will report to camp as a non-roster invitee, and that they have signed fellow right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter to a big-league pact.
The Brodzinski family’s ties to the Phillies does not end there. Pete and Greg are both named after Phillies legends, Pete Rose and Greg Luzinski. They also have two brothers, Mike for Mike Schmidt and Steve for Steve Carlton.
Pete is now considered the Phillies’ unofficial 72nd member of their spring roster, and his talent extends further than his baseball background, being the brother of Greg, a former Phillies catching prospect-turned-coach who earned his first MLB position with the organization this offseason.
Pete has appeared on several episodes of ABC’s hit show, “What Would You Do?” His appearances help promote the need for greater acceptance for those with Down syndrome.
Pete says his experience with Girardi was awesome, and that he is now his “best friend, always and forever.”
“It’s really special,” Greg told Clark. “It shows the heart that Joe has. He took him under his wing and showed him around and made him just really feel like a part of the family that we have here. It’s unbelievably special.”
Clark reported that Girardi learned how to create special relationships, like the one he now shares with Pete, thanks to his mom and dad.
“Our job is to make this world a better place,” Girardi added. “I think there are so many times you can just give a little time or reach out and do something for someone. The big thing is, it ends up touching you more than it touches the person you’re reaching out to.”
Pete and Greg’s father, Barry, noted how special Girardi’s acceptance was and that he allowed his son to be “one of the guys” and “one of the team now.”
According to Clark, Pete hopes he can visit the clubhouse in Philadelphia as well at some point this season, and even team up to run it with Bryce Harper.
“He’s applying for that job, and Girardi said we’re going to bring him aboard.”