For star Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, the ultimate driver for him to re-sign and continue donning red pinstripes was not setting a record contract for the catcher position. “To be honest, ‘moving the market’ wasn’t really always the most important thing to me,” he said during a Monday afternoon press conference.
Rather, the most important thing for the two-time All-Star — that always stuck in the back of his mind — were Phillies fans.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto says Phillies fans have embraced him ‘from day one.’
“The fans embraced me right away. They were good to me from day one,” Realmuto said. “They treated my family great. We haven’t been shy about how much we love playing for the Phillies, so we’re just really excited and grateful for the opportunity they’ve given us.”
Last season, when fans were not even supposed to be a factor at Major League Baseball games due to social distancing guidelines, Realmuto received support from the Philadelphia fan at its best — whether it be through signs, chants, you name it.
“That was honestly a big factor in us loving Philly so much. The fan base embraced us from day one,” Realmuto continued. “The excitement they showed for me personally, as a player — not only just the team, but they kind of backed me from day one. I really appreciate that.”
Realmuto, who played the first five years of his career with the Miami Marlins, added that he talks to his wife all the time about how different it has been playing in Philadelphia. “Feeling support from them really does make a difference for a player, so it’s definitely appreciated,” he said.
Fans were not the only advocates that called for the Phillies front officer to re-sign Realmuto. There were also his teammates, with the most vocal being outfielder Bryce Harper, and even the recent free-agent signing of fellow Oklahoma native right-hander Archie Bradley. Realmuto said he is grateful to have teammates like that, who have become his best friends.
“They become family for me, so we stayed in contact all offseason long,” Realmuto added. “They were pulling for me and rooting for me, but the pressure they put on the organization — I’m not sure if that made a difference or not — but it always put a smile on my face and I loved to see it.”
J.T. Realmuto says he is happy with his new contract with the Phillies.
"“In my opinion, the catcher is a little devalued in baseball — because long-term contracts haven’t really panned out or because, in theory, we age faster. Whatever that may be, it’s a little tougher for catchers when they get up in age and it’s tougher to get those long-term deals.” – J.T. Realmuto"
Sure, Realmuto did not set the bar so high for catchers as he may have wanted to, although he did slightly break Joe Mauer‘s previous average annual value record of $23 million. “That AAV is not as high as other top position players at their position. For whatever reason, that is, I was happy to not let that go backward,” Realmuto said. “I know it’s been a long time since Mauer had his deal, so it’s a little different scenario that baseball is in [now]. I think, post-pandemic, we’re pretty happy with the deal we got.”
While there were plenty of times this offseason that it did not seem definite the Phillies would have the “best catcher in baseball” back for the 2021 season, for the catcher himself, there was not really a time when he felt being back with the Phillies was not going to work out.
“I knew the process would play itself out, how it was supposed to,” he said. “I’m really just glad to be back and how it worked out the way it did.”